More than 9,000 personnel have been temporarily suspended from Turkey's police force while they are investigated for suspected links to US-based cleric Fethullah Gulen. The cleric was blamed for last year's failed coup.
Turkish authorities suspended 9,103 police personnel on Wednesday as a part of an investigation into to last year's attempted military coup, according to a press release from the police.
"One thousand and nine secret imams have been detained so far in 72 provinces, and the operation is ongoing," said Turkish Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has repeatedly blamed the attempted coup on Gulen, who has denied the accusation. Turkey has been under a state of emergency since the attempted coup last July, which has given Erdogan and his cabinet the power to bypass parliament, and pass laws as well as hold suspects in jail for an extended time without being charged with a crime.
Countries around the world have expressed concerns the state of emergency has been used to round up political opponents along with potential coup conspirators. About 47,000 people have been arrested and about 120,000 have been fired or suspended from their professions in the nine months following the coup.
We are trying to cleanse Gulen supporters: Erdogan
Wednesday's suspensions and arrests come 10 days after Turkish voters supported a referendum to give Erdogan more sweeping control over the country. Opposition parties and European election observers have said the referendum vote was troubled by irregularities. Turkey's main opposition party, the Republican People's Party (CHP) said Wednesday it will challenge changes to the voting rules for Turkey's referendum at the European Court of Human Rights.
Erdogan told the Reuters news agency on Tuesday that the referendum was necessary to avert potential instability, be it from those associated with the coup or Islamist or Kurdish militants. Referendum opponents worry the vote pushes Turkey closer to an authoritarian state.
"In Turkey, there was an attempted coup with a goal of toppling the government and destroying the state," Erdogan told Reuters.
"We are trying to cleanse members of FETO inside the armed forces, inside the judiciary and inside the police," he added, using an acronym for what the Turkish government labels Gulen's supporters.
Germany condemns incarcerations
Sebastian Fischer, a spokesman for Germany's Foreign Ministry, said there should be an investigation into last year's attempted coup, but "the measures must adhere to the rule of law."
"We don't believe arresting 1,000 people so long after the putsch is really proportionate," Fischer added, referring to police arrests earlier Wednesday.
Relations between Germany and Turkey have soured in recent years, especially since the attempted coup. At least 18 Germans have been detained in Turkey since last July, with some still behind bars. Erdogan has refused to release German-Turkish journalist Deniz Yucel "as long as I am in power."
kbd/cmk (AFP, AP, Reuters)