Turkey Latest: Tens Of Thousands Purged; "Gulenist Media" Shut Down; Pilots Behind Russian Jet Downing Arrested
19 July, 2016
Turkish president Erdogan continues his witch hunt purge for the third day, and as of this morning the office of the Turkish prime minister removed from duty 257 staff suspected of being linked to the failed coup Reuters cites a source in the PM’s team as saying Tuesday. The number of those suspended from duty in the PM’s office has reached 10 percent of the estimated 2,600 total personnel of Prime Minister Binali Yildirim’s staff.
The crackdown is also impacting the army, where the state-run Anadolu news agency reported that President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's Air Force adviser, Lt. Col. Erkan Kivrak, has been detained at a hotel in the Serik district of Turkey's southern province of Antalya. It says Kivrak was detained while on vacation. Following processing by the Antalya police, he has been transferred to Ankara. Additionally courts have ordered 85 generals and admirals jailed pending trial over their roles in a botched coup attempt. Dozens of others were still being questioned.
Additionally, about 100 employees of Turkey’s National Intelligence Organization have been suspended from work over alleged ties to the coup of July 15, reports Haber Turk newspaper.
Anadolu Agency said Tuesday that those formally arrested include former air force commander Gen. Akin Ozturk, alleged to be the ringleader of the July 15 uprising (we documented the surprising flip-flop in his narrative yesterday) as well as Gen. Adem Hududi, commander of Turkey's 2nd Army, which is charge of countering possible threats to Turkey from Syria, Iran and Iraq.
And then there are the teachers: moments ago Anadolu also reported that the Turkey education ministry has suspended 15,200 staff and adds that Turkey has asked for the resignation of all university deans.
Summarizing the latest purge we get the following numbers:
8,000 police officers
257 in PM's office
120 generals and admirals
While the west has been largely oblivious of the Turkish purges, they have been noticed at the U.N. whose human rights chief expressed alarm about "the mass suspension or removals of judges in Turkey." Zeid Ra'ad al-Hussein also decried comments from some officials that the death penalty could be reinstated, saying such a move would be "a big step in the wrong direction" and violate Turkey's responsibilities under international law.
Yet even as the arrests continue, Turkey vowed on Tuesday to root out allies of the U.S.-based cleric, Fethullah Gulen, it blames for a failed coup attempt last week, after an already deep purge of the army, police and judiciary, and said it had sent Washington evidence of his wrongdoing. Prime Minister Binali Yildirim accused Washington, which said it will only consider extradition if clear evidence is provided, of double standards in its fight against terrorism.
"We have more than enough evidence, more than you could ask for, on Gulen," Justice Minister Bekir Bozdag told reporters outside parliament. "There is no need to prove the coup attempt, all evidence shows that the coup attempt was organized on his will and orders."
Earlier today, Turkey's deputy prime minister says dossiers containing details of activities of Gulen have been sent to the U.S. Numan Kurtulmus says Tuesday he can't go into the details of the files but said they include the past actions of the group led by Fethullah Gulen. They may also include new evidence that emerges from the current investigation.
There are conflicting reports about whether Turkey has sent an official extradition request to the US, with AP reported that this has not yet happened, however FT saying that it has indeed happened:
Turkey has sent the US four dossiers on the alleged activities of Pennsylvania-based Islamic cleric Fethullah Gulen, following up on a demand for his immediate extradition that threatens to derail relations between the two Nato allies.
But as Turkish demands get louder, the US stance — that any request for extradition should go through a judicial review — has angered Turkish politicians, including Prime Minister Binali Yildirim, who told reporters on Monday that “we will be a little bit disappointed if our friends say ‘show us the evidence’ while there are members of this organisation which is trying to destroy a state and a person who instructs it”.
“Even questioning our friendship may be brought to the agenda here,” he added.
But the request does not include any evidence of Mr Gulen’s actions related to the coup, said Bekir Bozdag, the justice minister, noting the complexity of an ongoing investigation. Instead, a Turkish official said, the dossiers include the results of Turkish prosecutors’ long-running probes into Mr Gulen’s actions.
Meanwhile, as Turkey continues to pursue every domestic trace of Gulen, moments ago Turkey’s radio-TV watchdog RTUK unanimously voted to cancel all broadcast rights and licenses of radio and TV stations that are linked to Gulenist “FETO/PDY” organization, it says in statement on website.
Names of outlets, whose broadcast rights and licenses are canceled, according to state-run Anadolu Agency: STV, Samanyolu Haber, Samanyolu Haber Radyo, Can Erzincan TV, Kanal 124, Yumurcak TV, Hira TV, MC TV, Dunya TV, Kanal Turk, Bugun TV, Mehtap TV, Berfin FM, Kanal Turk Radyo, Burc FM, Samanyolu Haber Radyosu, Radyo Mehtap, Haber Radyo Ege, Dunya Radyo, Radyo Kure, Merkur TV, Esra Radyo, Tuna Shoping TV, Samanyolu Haber Radyo Anadolu
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But in what may be the most surprising development, Turkish officials on Tuesday also blamed Gulen’s followers for shooting down a Russian Su-24 in November. That incident brought Russian president Vladimir Putin’s wrath on Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Turkey’s economy, in the form of travel bans for tourists and curbs on Turkish exports. The pilots were rounded up on Saturday, as part of what has become a wide-ranging purge of supposed plotters.
"Two Turkish pilots who shot down a Russian Su-24 near the Syrian border were taken into custody, according to a senior Turkish official speaking on condition of anonymity," Bloomberg reports, citing a high-level Turkish official.
In other words, the only reason Turkey could not hand over the two pilots to Putin is because - until Friday - they hadn't made clear their intentions of overthrowing Erdogan. Sounds legit.
Putin and Mr Erdogan are expected to meet in August for the first time since the jet was downed, indicating a mending of fences with Russia just as Turkey bristles at Washington for harbouring a man Mr Erdogan once considered a friend, but now describes as a terrorist.