State of emergency in Turkey aimed at cleric Gulen, supporters

A three-month nationwide state of emergency took effect Thursday in Turkey, aimed at pursuing the followers of the alleged coup ringleader, a government spokesman said.

Numan Kurtulmus said the state of emergency would be used to fight a "parallel structure," the term used by the government to describe Fethullah Gulen, an influential Islamic cleric living in the US.

Turkey has demanded the extradition of Gulen, a one-time ally of Erdogan. He denies involvement in Friday's attempted coup, which left more than 260 people dead and 1,500 injured.

The government sent four dossiers on Gulen to the US, promising to provide ample evidence of his involvement. The US confirmed receipt of the documents but declined to say whether they constituted a formal extradition request.

Deputy prime minister Mehmet Simsek insisted the state of emergency would not curtail basic freedoms, including restrictions on movement, gatherings and free press.

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan declared the emergency Wednesday. It took effect when it appeared in the country's publication of record.

It will be reviewed Thursday by parliament, which could decide to change its length or make it more restrictive. The legislative body is dominated by Erdogan's Justice and Development Party.

He said the decree was necessary according to the constitutional mandate to prevent "widespread acts of violence aimed at the destruction of the free democratic order."

The state of emergency is "absolutely not against democracy, rule of law and freedom - the opposite," Erdogan said. "It has the purposes of protecting and strengthening these values."

The president said there would be no restrictions of personal freedom, saying that people should have "no concerns."

He also gave a nod to markets and foreign investors, saying economic reforms would continue.

"We will not compromise on financial discipline," he said.

In a purge that has followed the failed coup, more than 50,000 civil servants have been fired, suspended or detained, including nearly 3,000 members of the judiciary. Also, 6,746 soldiers, including more than 100 generals, have been detained.

The education system notably has been hard hit. The Education Ministry on Wednesday added another 6,538 people to the list of 15,200 employees suspended, according to state media.

It also started proceedings to close 626 educational institutions, including 524 private schools. In addition, 21,000 teachers at private institutions have had their licences revoked and 1,577 deans at universities resigned.

Government supporters have called for the death penalty for coup plotters. Erdogan said Wednesday that if parliament passed a law reinstating capital punishment he would approve it, even though it could be ruin Ankara's bid to join the European Union.

German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier urged Turkey to limit the state of emergency to the shortest possible time. Anything else would tear the nation apart and weaken the country, he said.

All political parties in Turkey's parliament rejected the coup attempt. But the pro-Kurdish Peoples' Democratic Party voiced concern about reprisals against the opposition.

Lawmaker Ziya Pir told dpa that other factions "are afraid of being lynched."

Pir also charged that the anti-coup street protests have been in favour of Erdogan, rather than democracy, creating a "heated" mood in the country.

"Unfortunately, we are seeing a civilian counter-coup," he said.

Government supporters have flocked to squares around the country, waving the Turkish flag. In some cities, including Istanbul and Ankara, many thousands gathered in front of large screens to hear Erdogan speak on Wednesday.

The last state of emergency in Turkey was lifted in 2002 in two south-eastern provinces, where it had been in force for 15 years.

Last update: Thu, 21/07/2016 - 11:18

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