Turkish Authorities Granted Emergency Powers Amid ‘Cleansing’ After Failed Coup

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Turkey’s parliament backed emergency measures Thursday giving authorities broad powers to pursue alleged supporters of a failed coup, even as the government said it has rounded up nearly 10,000 people since the attempted military takeover.

The strengthened hand for authorities – with tens of thousand of others under scrutiny or suspended from their jobs – came amid further signals of more crackdowns to come. Hours earlier, Turkey declared a temporary suspension of a European-drafted rights pact that covers issues such as detention and searches.

Lawmakers passed the state of emergency motion by a comfortable majority, giving Turkey’s cabinet the ability to rule by decree for at least the next three months. The decrees can be overruled by parliament, but are not subject to review by Turkey’s Constitutional Court.

“The cleansing is continuing, and we remain very determined,” President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said in a speech late Wednesday. He described a “virus” within the Turkish military and state institutions that had spread like “cancer.”

The hard-line moves contrasted sharply with an effort by Turkish officials to reassure the country that the post-coup upheavals would not harm the economy or cause permanent harm to Turkey’s relations with the West.

But worries have been growing worries from Turkey’s NATO allies and others. Turkey is a critical front-line partner in the fight against the Islamic State and efforts to control the flow of migrants into Europe. But there also is concern that Turkish society and freedoms could come under much tighter controls amid the purges and probes following last week’s unsuccessful coup.

The left-wing, pro-minority People’s Democratic Party denounced the state of emergency on Thursday, saying the measures and crackdowns had become “a tool and opportunity for the government to purge all opposition and limit democratic rights and freedom.”

The wide-ranging fallout after last week’s coup attempt has expanded by the day: detaining and firing judges, military leaders and academics. On Thursday, one of Turkey’s most prominent human rights defenders, Orhan Kemal Cengiz, was detained at Istanbul’s Ataturk Airport and later transferred to a local police station. His wife, writer Sibel Hurtas, reported his detention on Twitter.

With the new powers taking shape, Deputy Prime Minister Numan Kurtulmus cited France’s decision to also temporarily suspend provisions of the European Convention on Human Rights following the Paris rampage in November that were carried out by militants linked to the Islamic State. Those attacks left 130 people dead.

After a military coup in 1980, martial law was imposed in Turkey. And Turkey imposed emergency rule over its restive Kurdish regions in the southeast in 1987 and lifted it 15 years later.

But it has never done so for the entire country. Emergency rule grants authorities special powers to use the military and other security services to break up demonstrations and other public gatherings.

Another deputy prime minister, Mehmet Simsek, was tasked with pushing a calming message to businesses and investors fearing an economic plummet.

“Life of ordinary people and businesses will go un-impacted, uninterrupted, business will be as usual,” Simsek wrote in a Twitter post.

One international ratings agency, Standard & Poor’s, however, downgraded Turkey’s credit rating deeper into “junk” status citing the coup attempt and resulting political turmoil, causing the country’s currency to fall and stocks to plunge Thursday.

State media, meanwhile, has announced the detention of another 32 judges and two military officers, bringing to nearly 10,000 the total number of those arrested including armed forces brass, members of the judiciary and others.

In addition, about 40,000 others – judges, civil servants, military, police and journalists – have been either suspended from jobs or put under investigation as the country’s leaders seek to root out opponents and perceived internal dissent.

European leaders have been increasingly uncomfortable with the crackdown out of fear it could lead to further suspected rights abuses.

German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier said it would be in Turkey’s interest “to keep the state of emergency only for the duration that it is absolutely necessary.” He also warned against arresting people just on the basis of their political attitude rather than a proven role in the coup.

Austria summoned Turkey’s ambassador and questioned him about the country’s future. “We want to clarify . . . which direction Turkey is going to take,” said Foreign Minister Sebatian Kurz in a radio interview cited by Reuters.

A senior Turkish official said that law enforcement detained a member of the special forces squad that raided the Aegean Sea resort where Erdogan had been staying as the coup attempt unfolded last Friday. The special forces member was captured in Ula in western Turkey, the official said, speaking anonymously in line with government protocol.

The official also denied reports detainees – including the alleged masterminds of the coup – had suffered abuse while in custody.

“During many arrests, fire was exchanged and there was resistance from coup plotters,” the official said. “Individuals in need of medical assistance receive necessary treatment.”

The government is presenting the measures as an effort to confront a wide-ranging conspiracy led by a U.S.-based Turkish cleric, Fethullah Gulen, a former ally of Erdogan whom Turkey accuses of running a terrorist organization. Critics, however, claim that Erdogan’s government is using the coup attempt as an excuse to eliminate the last vestiges of opposition to its rule.

The crackdown against alleged Gulenists has showed no signs of relenting and on Wednesday Turkey issued a ban on professional travel for all academics, opened investigations into military courts and closed schools.

Gulen, the cleric accused of inspiring the coup attempt, has denied any link to the plot, implying instead that Erdogan staged it as part of a bid to consolidate power. Gulen lives in self-imposed exile in Pennsylvania, and his backers operate education networks in Turkey, the United States and elsewhere.

Turkey has requested Gulen’s extradition from the United States.

In Washington, Secretary of State John F. Kerry said the Justice Department has jurisdiction over the issue. “They will have to make their judgments applying our legal standards to whatever has been put forward,” he said.

(c) 2016, The Washington Post · Erin Cunningham, Hugh Naylor 



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