Turkey demands Germany extradite followers of Erdogan rival Gulen

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu demanded Thursday that Berlin extradite alleged followers of preacher Fethullah Gulen living in Germany, in a move that could strain already tense relations.

Turkey blames Gulen, a Turkish-born cleric living in exile in the US state of Pennsylvania, for the failed coup that left more than 260 people dead.

Gulen was a long-time ally of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, but the two had a public falling out amid disputes over domestic and foreign policy over the past several years. Gulen denies the charges that he plotted the coup.

Cavusoglu alleged prosecutors and judges who are part of Gulen's movement are currently in Germany, where there is a large Turkish minority.

Germany will "follow law and order principles," Chancellor Angela Merkel said in response to the foreign minister's demand.

"There are now people who we are demanding from Germany," Cavusoglu told broadcaster CNN Turk. "They must deliver them."

There are about 3 million people of Turkish heritage living in Germany, which has the world's biggest Turkish diaspora community. The older generation started coming to Germany in the 1960s as guest labourers.

The coup attempt has divided the community, which includes some 100,000 Gulenists with considerable influence over schools and other cultural organizations.

Members of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's German following gathered for a protest outside the Turkish Embassy in Berlin a day after the coup attempt, while protestors in Gelsenkirchen broke the windows of an organization tied to Gulen.

Ankara is battling to get Gulen himself extradited from the US, where he has lived since 1999. The demand is testing relations with a key ally, as Cavusoglu warned a failure to deliver the preacher could have repercussions on US-Turkish ties.

Washington is demanding a formal request with solid enough proof to warrant deportation, saying it would weigh the merits.

Amnesty International this week charged that there is widespread torture in Turkish jails where alleged coup plotters are being held. This could make it more difficult for Western countries to send people back to Turkey.

Thursday's extradition request adds to already-high tensions between Ankara and Berlin over EU-Turkey migration deal negotiations and the German parliament's decision to recognize the Armenian genocide, a charge Turkey rejects outright.

Meanwhile, Turkey's Supreme Military Council met for the first time since the failed attempt that resulted in a purge of tens of thousands of government workers, including a mass discharge of high-ranking officers from the military.

The meeting was held in the prime minister's office, rather than the military headquarters, in what was seen as a sign the army – long a nearly self-governing institution - was taking on more civilian oversight.

The council is now expected to hand its decisions to President Recep Tayyip Erdogan for approval.

About 1,600 officers, including 149 generals, were discharged from the army by decree on Wednesday in the lead-up to the meeting, which took place in the prime minister's office. The actions have all been taken under a state of emergency which went into effect July 21.

Turkey, a NATO member with the second largest army in the alliance, has just over 350 generals in its armed forces.

The council is now expected to hand its decisions to Erdogan for approval.

The Turkish Armed Forces said 8,651 members of the military, or about 1.5 per cent of the force, took part in the putsch.

The government says it has detained more than 13,000 people, of whom about 9,000 have been formally arrested. The state-run Anadolu news agency said 66,036 people have been suspended from the civil service.

A state-prosecutor in Ankara has also moved to have 13 companies, mostly trading firms alleged to have links to the Gulenists, put under trusteeship, in an effort to clamp down on the movement's financial wings.

Moreover, the prosecutor's office asked a court to seize all assets of 3,049 judges and prosecutors allegedly linked to the failed coup, the state-run Anadolu news agency reported.

Detention orders out for all these members of the judiciary. Turkey has already arrested 1,684 judges and prosecutors.

The government also ordered the shutdown of more than 100 media organizations in a decree issued under the state of emergency.

Detention orders were issued for 42 journalists and a second order was issued later for 47 former employees of Zaman newspaper, which was taken over by the government in March and now finally closed under the latest decree. Zaman had links to Gulen's movement.

Even before the coup, 34 journalists were in jail in Turkey, the European Federation of Journalists said.

Last update: Thu, 28/07/2016 - 19:32

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