Turkey coup probe presses on as dismissals and detentions abound

The fallout from this month's coup attempt in Turkey claimed yet more scalps Monday, with dozens of journalists, academics, soldiers, diplomats and airline employees targeted for possible links to the July 15 putsch.

Monday saw 42 soldiers arrested, with reports that some were high-ranking officers. Additionally, three elite soldiers who stormed the hotel where President Recep Tayyip Erdogan was staying the night of the coup attempt have also been detained.

Also, 42 reporters - including prominent regime critic Nazli Ilicak - and 31 academics were the target of the latest phase of the post-coup investigation.

Additionally, the Foreign Ministry says it will "cleanse" many people from its ambassadorial ranks, while Turkish Airlines said it would release 211 workers, including its deputy finance director.

All of those ousted have alleged ties to US-based cleric Fethullah Gulen, a one-time Erdogan ally who now stands accused of engineering multiple efforts to push Erdogan from power, including the most recent putsch attempt. Gulen denies any involvement, even as Turkey has pushed the United States for extradition.

The Anadolu news agency reported that five journalists being sought had been detained. Ilicak's home had also been searched. The DHA news agency reported authorities were looking for her in Bodrum, a vacation town.

All the journalists being probed have links to media owned by Gulen, DHA reported.

Ilicak worked for Sabah, a newspaper with government ties, until the end of 2013, when she demanded that several ministers from the Islamic-rooted ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) step down amid a corruption scandal.

AKP members say the corruption allegations were a conspiracy organized by Gulen. Thousands of Gulenists have been cleared from government jobs in recent years, a process that has escalated since the coup attempt.

Ilicak has also worked for the newspaper Bugun, considered to be associated with Gulen. The government took over Bugun last year, changed its editorial direction and then shut it down, one of several media outlets to come under fire in Turkey in recent years.

The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), a New York-based press freedom watchdog, condemned the arrest warrants issued for Turkish journalists and said the government was using the coup attempt as "a pretext for purging critical journalists."

"Journalists should not pay the price for military officers' unlawful attempt to overthrow the government," said CPJ's Nina Ognianova.

Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said the cleansing of Gulen supporters would not affect ambassadors currently overseas, just diplomats with similar ranks working at the ministry in Ankara.

"There will also be suspensions at the ambassadorial level," he said, speaking to broadcaster Haberturk.

More than 13,000 people have been detained since the coup, with about 6,000 of them still in custody. About 45,000 civil servants were removed from their jobs, while 21,000 teachers have lost their licences. The actions have prompted much criticism from Turkey's Western allies.

Erdogan has also used new emergency powers to close 2,341 institutes across the country for alleged ties to Gulen, including more than 1,000 schools. The powers allow authorities to hold suspects for 30 days, as opposed to the four days allowed under normal law.

Amnesty International says it is concerned some detainees are being tortured.

Erdogan, meanwhile, is reaching out to some opposition politicians amid the crackdown. Members of the centre-left People's Republican Party (CHP) were allowed to demonstrate against the coup on Sunday in Istanbul's Taksim Square, a site usually off limits to opposition groups.

Erdogan was invited to the event, which saw CHP supporters waving images of modern Turkey's founder, Mustafa Kemal Ataturk. CHP head Kemal Kilicdaroglu urged Turks to back "neither coups nor dictators: Long live free democracy."

Kilicdaroglu also said "No one should forget, that the July 15 coup attempt was the result of a third-class democracy." Kilicdaroglu has called Erdogan a dictator in the past.

Kilicdaroglu and Devlet Bahceli, head of the ultra-right MHP party, visited the presidential palace Monday so Erdogan could thank them for their support in denouncing the coup and consult them on the way forward.

No invitation has been extended to the pro-Kurdish HDP, which also decried the coup, but said that Erdogan has made use of it to shut down critics and take away democratic freedoms.

Last update: Mon, 25/07/2016 - 23:52

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