ISTANBUL — Turkey says it has dismissed a further 10,000 civil servants and closed 15 more media outlets over suspected links with terrorist organizations and U.S.-based cleric Fethullah Gulen, blamed by Ankara for orchestrating a failed coup in July.
More than 100,000 people have already been sacked or suspended and 37,000 arrested since the abortive putsch in an unprecedented crackdown President Tayyip Erdogan says is crucial for wiping out the network of Gulen from the state apparatus.
Thousands more academics, teachers, health workers, prison guards and forensics experts are among the latest to be removed from their posts through two new executive decrees published on the Official Gazette late on October 29.
Opposition parties described the move as a coup in itself. The continued crackdown has also raised concerns over the functioning of the state. “What the government and Erdogan are doing right now is a direct coup against the rule of law and democracy,” Sezgin Tanrikulu, an MP from the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP), said in a Periscope broadcast posted on Twitter.
A Turkish court on Sunday formally arrested Firat Anli, the co-mayor of the largely Kurdish southeastern city of Diyarbakir on a charge of membership of a terrorist organization. Prosecutors also sought the arrest of co-mayor Gultan Kisanak, detained alongside Anli five days ago and whose questioning continues, security sources said.
Earlier, police used rubber pellets to break up several hundred protesters marching against their arrests.
Turkey’s southeast has been rocked by the worst violence in decades since the collapse last year of a ceasefire between the state and the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), designated a terrorist organization by Turkey, the United States and the European Union.
The local prosecutor had said Kisanak, a lawmaker before becoming Diyarbakir’s first female mayor in 2014, and Anli had given speeches sympathetic to the PKK, called for greater political autonomy for Turkey’s estimated 16 million Kurds and incited violent protests in 2014.
The extent of the crackdown has worried rights groups and many of Turkey’s Western allies, who fear Erdogan is using the emergency rule to eradicate dissent. The government says the actions are justified given the threat to the state posed by the coup attempt, in which more than 240 people died.
The executive decrees have ordered the closure of 15 more newspapers, wires and magazines, which report from the largely Kurdish southeast, bringing the total number of media outlets and publishers closed since July to nearly 160.
Universities have also been stripped of their ability to elect their own rectors according to the decrees. Erdogan will from now on directly appoint the rectors from the candidates nominated by the High Educational Board (YOK).
Lale Karabiyik, another CHP lawmaker, said the move was a clear misuse of the emergency rule decrees and described it as a coup d’etat on higher education. Pro-Kurdish opposition said the decrees were used as tools to establish a ‘one-man regime’.
The government extended the state of emergency imposed after the coup attempt for three months until mid-January. Erdogan said the authorities needed more time to wipe out the threat posed by Gulen’s network as well as Kurdish militants who have waged a 32-year insurgency.
Ankara wants the United States to detain and extradite Gulen so that he can be prosecuted in Turkey on a charge that he masterminded the attempt to overthrow the government. Gulen, who has lived in self-imposed exile in Pennsylvania since 1999, denies any involvement.
Speaking to reporters at a reception marking Republic Day on Saturday, Erdogan said the nation wanted the reinstatement of the death penalty, a debate which has emerged following the coup attempt, and added that delaying it would not be right.
“I believe this issue will come to the parliament,” he said, and repeated that he would approve it, a move that would sink Turkey’s hopes of European Union membership. Erdogan shrugged off such concerns, saying that much of the world had capital punishment.
Latest decrees include controversial measures violating int’l law, agreements
Two government decrees that were issued by the Justice and Development Party (AKP) government on Saturday have attracted widespread criticism for including measures that violate international law and agreements to which Turkey is a party. Saturday’s decrees, which have the force of law, were the latest of dozens of such controversial decrees issued by the government in the aftermath of a failed military coup on July 15. They went into force after being published in the Official Gazette on Saturday.
A state of emergency declared on July 20 in the wake of the coup attempt has made it possible for the government to press ahead with such decrees, which are also known as KHKs, in a bid to punish coup supporters. These decrees are not required to be approved by Parliament to go into force.
Immediately after the putsch, the government along with President Recep Tayyip Erdogan pinned the blame for it on the Gülen movement, while the movement and Fethullah Gülen, whose views inspired the movement, strongly deny having any involvement in the failed coup.
According to the two new decrees, numbered 675 and 676, the Turkish government will be able to cancel the passports of all those who are facing administrative or judicial investigations or prosecution as well as those of their spouses. The decrees also effectively eliminates attorney-client privilege, empowering officials to monitor all their conversations and ban access.
As part of the new decrees, the Turkish government will from now on protect the identity of prison guards in official documents, in a move that is apparently aimed to save them from legal action over torture claims.
Allegations of torture and other maltreatment of Turkey’s post-coup detainees have substantially increased. A report released by the New York-based Human Rights Watch (HRW) on Oct. 25 said Turkish police have tortured and otherwise ill-treated individuals in their custody after emergency decrees removed crucial safeguards in the wake of the failed coup attempt in July.
According to the new decrees, there is no need to read the entire indictment during court proceedings, a clear violation of the practices of the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR).
Another controversial measure, violating ECtHR rules, taken by the government in the latest decrees empowers judges to rule on detentions without having the defendant appear in the court.
The new decrees also declare 68 exchange students studying in the U.S., the UK and Canada as “Gülenists,” cut off their scholarships and say their degrees will not be recognized by Turkey.
One measure concerns foreigners in Turkey. Changing ‘Law No. 6458 on Foreigners’, it waives the requirement of a court decision in the deportation of foreigners. The 2013 Law on Foreigners and International Protection stated a foreigner cannot be deported until judicial proceedings were completed.
With this change, foreigners whom the Turkish government considers to be terrorists or their supporters, or pose a public security threat will be deported. Those who are believed to be linked to terror groups as defined by international organizations face deportation as well.
Another measure in the latest decrees says all carriers transporting passengers to and from Turkey may be required to share passenger and crew list with authorities before, after, or during their trips.
The new requirement of sharing the passenger and crew manifest also covers carriers that transport passengers within Turkey. The original law stipulated that Turkish immigration authorities could only request passenger lists from carriers before their departure for Turkey.
Apart from these controversial measures, a total 10,158 staff members have been purged from state institutions with the new decrees for allegedly “being members of terrorist organizations or organizations, groups that were listed by the National Security Council as acting against the security of the state.” The Turkish government has already dismissed more than 100,000 people from state bodies on the grounds that they have links to the Gülen movement.
According to the two new decrees, two news agencies — Dicle Haber Ajansi and Jin Haber Ajansi; ten newspapers — Azadiya Welat, Yüksekova Haber, Batman Çagdas Gazetesi, Cizre Postasi, Idil Haber, Güney Expres, Prestij Haber, Urfanatik Gazetesi, Kiziltepe’nin Sesi and Özgür Gündem; and three magazines — Tiroji, Evrensel Kültür, Özgürlük Düyasi — were closed down.
The Turkish government has already shut down 55 newspapers, 36 TV stations, 23 radio stations, 18 magazines and 29 publishing houses since the state of emergency was declared on July 20, five days after a failed coup attempt on July 15. More than 130 journalists, most of them jailed after the coup attempt, are now behind bars in Turkey.
In addition, with the new decrees university rectors will no longer be elected through intra-university elections; they will be appointed by the president.
Diyarbakır co-mayors Kışanak and Anlı, former deputy Ata arrested, Turkish Minute, Oct 30, 2016
Journalists in the state of emergency report # 25: Turkish government shuts down 15 media outlets, by Platform for Independent Journalism, Oct 30, 2016
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