By Tuvan Gumrukcu
ANKARA, Nov 22 – Turkey on Tuesday dismissed 15,000 more officials, from soldiers and police officers to tax inspectors and midwives, and shut 375 institutions and news outlets, deepening purges condemned by Western allies and rights groups after a failed coup.
The latest dismissals, announced in two decrees, bring to more than 125,000 the number of people sacked or suspended in the military, civil service, judiciary and elsewhere since July’s failed coup. Some 36,000 have been jailed pending trial.
European allies have criticised the breadth of the purges under President Tayyip Erdogan, with some calling for a freezing of Turkey’s EU membership talks. A senior U.N. official has called the measures “draconian” and “unjustified”.
Erdogan has rejected such criticism, saying Turkey is determined to root out its enemies at home and abroad, and could reintroduce the death penalty. He has accused Western nations of siding with plotters behind the coup attempt in July and of harbouring terrorists.
Nearly 2,000 members of the armed forces, 7,600 police officers, 400 members of the gendarmerie, and more than 5,000 people from public institutions, including nurses, doctors and engineers, were dismissed in Tuesday’s decrees for suspected links to terrorist organisations.
Their names were listed in the Official Gazette, which made clear they would not be able to claim any severance or seek any other job in public service. The decrees were issued under emergency rule imposed in the wake of the failed coup, which allows Erdogan and the government to bypass parliament.
Ankara blames U.S.-based cleric Fethullah Gulen and his network of followers, which it refers to as the “Gulenist Terror Organisation” (FETO), for orchestrating the coup bid, in which more than 240 people were killed. The cleric denies involvement.
Erdogan’s opponents say the purges go well beyond a crackdown on suspected Gulenists and are being used to crush dissent. Those accused are often left unable to find other work and ostracised in their community, with Turkish media reports saying some have committed suicide before being put on trial.
PILOTS, PRISON WARDENS AND TELECOM EXECS
Separately from the latest decrees, authorities issued arrest warrants for 60 people including air force pilots in the central city of Konya over suspected Gulenist links.
More than 300 pilots have already been detained or dismissed since the coup, in which the plotters commandeered fighter jets, tanks and military helicopters, bombing parliament and other government buildings in their bid to seize power.
In another operation around Istanbul, 19 prison staff including the warden of Turkey’s largest jail Silivri were held on suspicion of using smart-phone messaging app ByLock, which authorities say is used by Gulen’s network.
Arrest warrants were also issued for 22 executives from telecoms firm Turk Telekom, the Hurriyet newspaper said. It said 12 of them had been detained in an operation spanning four provinces. Turk Telekom shares fell 0.35 percent, underperforming a 0.4 percent rise on the Istanbul stock index.
Tuesday’s decrees also announced the closure of 375 institutions, 18 charities, and nine media outlets. Turkey has closed more than 130 media outlets since July.
The decrees also said that institutions previously closed over alleged links to terrorist organisations should be handed over to the state’s Savings Deposit Insurance Fund (TMSF), which has already taken control of a bank, several media firms and other businesses suspected of links to Gulen.