Airbase searched as post-coup reprisals pick up pace in Turkey

Turkish authorities, including prosecutors, on Monday began a search at Incirlik airbase in the south of the country, Hurriyet newspaper reported, as the retribution against this weekend's coup-plotters in Turkey picked up pace.

The joint US-Turkish base, which is also host to soldiers from several countries, including Germany, was reportedly used during the failed coup attempt. The base is used by the US for its air campaign against Islamic State.

Earlier Monday, General Bekir Ercan Van, commander of Incirlik airbase, was arrested with 10 of his soldiers for alleged complicity.

Meanwhile, former air force head Akin Ozturk, has confessed to being part of the putsch plot, the state-run Anadolu news agency reported.

Turkey fingered Ozturk as the domestic ringleader of the failed coup attempt. Prior to his confession, he was shown under arrest and battered. He is allegedly one of more than 100 generals and admirals who took part in the attempt.

Turkey's allies have warned against overreach, matching Turkey's talk of reintroducing the death penalty to deal with the plotters with their own threats to suspend its slow-going path to EU membership.

Less than two days after the attempted coup was shut down, government officials reported thousands of arrests and detentions, essentially hollowing out parts of the armed forces and the civil service.

Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim said Monday that the most recent tally of coup-related arrests was 7,543 arrests, including 6,038 soldiers, 100 police officers, 755 judges and prosecutors and 650 civilians.

It was unclear how those numbers meshed with Interior Ministry figures, which had 8,777 people removed from their posts, including 7,899 members of the police and security forces, according to Anadolu. That figure did not include 3,000 soldiers already reported detained on Sunday.

In all, more than 13,000 government workers have been suspended, according to Yildirim.

All civil servants in the country - more than 3 million people - were ordered to return to their duties as soon as possible and all annual leave for employees was cancelled until further notice, the state-run Anadolu news agency reported.

The question in Turkey now turned to how to punish all the alleged coup plotters, who stand accused of leading an uprising that started late Friday before being crushed by loyalists. Yildirim said Monday the death toll among loyalist forces was 60 police officers and three soldiers, on top of 145 civilians killed.

Among putsch backers, Yildirim reported 24 dead and 50 injured. That contradicted earlier Foreign Ministry figures stating more than 100 had died. Nearly 1,491 people were reported injured.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said he and legislators will discuss reviving the death penalty, which has not been used in Turkey since 1984 and was abolished in 2004.

Reinstituting such a policy would be diplomatically troubling to many of Turkey's Western allies. The EU - which Turkey has sought to join since 1999 - has no member that allows the death penalty.

Germany said that restoring the death penalty would lead to a suspension of EU membership talks.

Nonetheless Erdogan has pledged the "cleansing" of state institutions will continue, saying a cancer had spread like a "virus" and needed to be eradicated.

The diplomatic fight was also touching the United States, where alleged coup organizer Fethullah Gulen, once a close Erdogan ally, resides. Turkey has demanded Gulen be extradited, despite Gulen's insistence he had nothing to do with the coup.

The United States has said it would look at any extradition requests, but US Secretary of State John Kerry also made clear Monday that Turkey should respect the rule of law.

The US embassy in Ankara also reacted to news reports and comments from public figures that Washington "in some way supported the coup attempt."

"This is categorically untrue, and such speculation is harmful to the decades-long friendship between two great nations," a statement from the embassy said.

Last update: Mon, 18/07/2016 - 18:32

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