Turkish leaders start crackdown after failed coup
By Eric Maurice
Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan has started a crackdown on the country's military and judiciary and accused a US-exiled cleric of being behind Friday's (15 July) failed coup to topple his government.
More than 2,800 soldiers, including army commanders, and 2,700 judges were arrested on Saturday in what appears to be an effort to clear both institutions of opponents and critics to Erdogan's power.
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"This uprising is a gift from God to us because this will be a reason to cleanse our army," Erdogan said on Saturday. "They will pay a heavy price for their treason to Turkey”, he added.
Videos of soldiers, who participated in the coup, being lynched by crowds were circulated on social networks.
Erdogan said his government was in charge and would "continue exercising [its] powers until the end".
The Turkish army chief, Umit Dundar, said that “the coup attempt was rejected by the chain of command immediately.”
Erdogan suggested that the coup was inspired by Fethullah Gulen, an influential cleric who lives in the US.
“Turkey cannot be governed from a house in Pennsylvania,” he said on Saturday morning.
Speaking to a crowd in the evening, Erdogan asked the US to hand over the exiled preacher.
His prime minister, Binali Yildirim, had earlier said that “whichever country is behind him is not a friend of Turkey and is in a serious war against Turkey.” A Turkish minister was also quoted as saying that the US was behind the coup.
Gulen in a statement said he "condemn[ed], in the strongest terms, the attempted military coup in Turkey … Government should be won through a process of free and fair elections, not force”.
The struggle between Erdogan and Gulen dates back several years. In 2014, a Turkish court issued a warrant against Gulen, whom Erdogan accused of running a "parallel state". Journalists, writers and police officers who were considered to be Gulen supporters were arrested.
Turkish authorities also closed for several hours the airspace around the US base of Incirlik, preventing air strikes against the Islamic State jihadist group in Syria.
They said the move was to ensure that all the Turkish air force was under their control.
Power was also cut to the base, where tactical nuclear weapons are stocked, and the US forces there had to use internal power sources.
Support for government
US president Barack Obama reacted by calling on Turkish authorities to "act within the rule of law and to avoid actions that would lead to further violence or instability."
He also expressed support for the "democratically-elected, civilian" Turkish government.
In Germany, chancellor Angela Merkel condemned "in strongest terms the attempt of Turkish military units to overthrow the elected government and elected president of the country by using violence".
Merkel, who is considered as Erdogan's closest ally in the EU, added that "Germany stands side by side with those in Turkey who defend democracy and the rule of law".
Earlier on Saturday, US media cited US sources as saying that Erdogan had claimed asylum in Germany while the coup was unfolding.
In a statement, EU diplomacy chief Federica Mogherini and neighbourhood commissioner Johannes Hahn also expressed their "full support to the democratic institutions of the country."
'One man rule'
They called for "a swift return to Turkey's constitutional order with its checks and balances".
European Parliament president Martin Schulz was less diplomatic, saying that the Turkish government "must not use this occasion to breach democratic rule, restrict freedom of speech and fundamental rights".
"One man rule and arbitrary decisions are not acceptable in a country which is not only a strategic ally but also an accession candidate to the European Union," he said in a statement.
The military coup was launched Friday evening. It included tanks in Istanbul and the capital Ankara and jets shooting at tanks in front of the parliament.
The coup failed after crowds took the street to defend Erdogan and the government after appeals by the authorities, including Erdogan himself, to do so.
During the night, 161 people were killed and 1,440 were injured, according to PM Yildirim.