With thou­sands de­tained, con­cerns raised Tur­key has moved fur­ther to­ward au­thor­i­tar­ian rule


Fol­low­ing a failed coup against Turk­ish Pres­i­dent Re­cep Tayyip Er­do­gan, the govern­ment moved swiftly to shore up his power and re­move those per­ceived as an en­emy, say­ing Sun­day it has de­tained 6,000 peo­ple.

The crack­down tar­geted not only gen­er­als and sol­diers, but a wide swath of the ju­di­ciary that has some­times blocked Er­do­gan, rais­ing con­cerns that the ef­fort to oust him will push Tur­key even fur­ther into au­thor­i­tar­ian rule.

Fri­day night’s sud­den up­ris­ing by a fac­tion of the mil­i­tary ap­peared to take the govern­ment — and much of the world — by sur­prise.

The plot­ters sent war­planes fir­ing on key govern­ment in­stal­la­tions and tanks rolling into ma­jor cities, but it ended hours later when loyal govern­ment forces re­gained con­trol of the mil­i­tary, and civil­ians took to the streets in sup­port of Er­do­gan. At least 294 peo­ple were killed and more than 1,400 wounded, the govern­ment said.

On Sun­day, Prime Min­is­ter Bi­nali Yildirim said the coup had failed and life has re­turned to nor­mal.

“An­other calamity has been thwarted,” Yildirim said in Ankara af­ter vis­it­ing state TRT tele­vi­sion, which had been seized by sol­diers sup­port­ing the coup. “How­ever, our duty is not over. We shall rapidly con­duct the cleans­ing op­er­a­tion so that they can­not again show the au­dac­ity of com­ing against the will of the peo­ple.”

Yildirim said those in­volved with the failed coup “will re­ceive every pun­ish­ment they de­serve.” Er­do­gan sug­gested that Tur­key might re­in­state cap­i­tal pun­ish­ment, which was legally abol­ished in 2004 as part of the coun­try’s bid to join the Euro­pean Union.

Speak­ing to a large crowd of his sup­port­ers in front of his Is­tan­bul res­i­dence Sun­day evening, Er­do­gan re­sponded to fre­quent calls of “We want the death penalty!” by say­ing: “We hear your re­quest. In a democ­racy, what­ever the peo­ple want they will get.”

Fu­ner­als were held for some of those who were killed in the coup at­tempt, in­clud­ing Er­do­gan’s cam­paign man­ager Erol Ol­cak and his 16-year-old son, Ab­dul­lah Tayyip Ol­cak. The pres­i­dent, who at­tended the ser­vice, wept and vowed to take the coun­try for­ward in “unity and sol­i­dar­ity.”

The govern­ment’s an­nounce­ment that 6,000 peo­ple had been de­tained — in­clud­ing three top gen­er­als and hun­dreds of sol­diers — sug­gested a wide con­spir­acy. Ob­servers said the scale of the crack­down, es­pe­cially against the ju­di­ciary, in­di­cated the govern­ment was tak­ing the op­por­tu­nity to fur­ther con­sol­i­date Er­do­gan’s power.

“The fac­tions within the mil­i­tary op­posed to Er­do­gan who did this just gave him carte blanche to crack down not only on the mil­i­tary but on the ju­di­ciary,” said Aykan Erdemir, a former law­maker from the main op­po­si­tion party and now a se­nior fel­low at the U.S.-based Foun­da­tion for De­fence of Democ­ra­cies. “The coup plot­ters couldn’t have helped Er­do­gan more.”

Even be­fore the chaos in Tur­key, the NATO mem­ber and key Western ally in the fight against the Is­lamic State group had been wracked by po­lit­i­cal tur­moil that crit­ics blamed on Er­do­gan’s in­creas­ingly heavy-handed rule. He has shaken up the govern­ment, cracked down on dis­sent, re­stricted the me­dia and re­newed fight­ing with Kur­dish rebels.

The rapid sup­pres­sion of the putsch was greeted by Turks across the po­lit­i­cal spec­trum with op­po­si­tion par­ties join­ing quickly to con­demn it. In a half-dozen cities, tens of thou­sands marched through­out the day af­ter of­fi­cials urged them to de­fend democ­racy and back Er­do­gan, Tur­key’s top politi­cian for 13 years.

At night­fall, flag-wav­ing crowds ral­lied in Is­tan­bul’s Tak­sim Square, Ankara’s Kizilay Square and else­where.

The Yeni Safak news­pa­per used the head­line “Traitors of the coun­try,” while the Hur­riyet news­pa­per de­clared “Democ­racy’s vic­tory.”

“Just a small group from Turk­ish armed forces stood up against our govern­ment ... but we, the Turk­ish na­tion, stand to­gether and re­pulse it back,” said Gozde Kurt, a 16-year-old stu­dent at a morn­ing rally in Is­tan­bul.

The failed coup and the sub­se­quent crack­down fol­lowed moves by Er­do­gan to re­shape both the mil­i­tary and the ju­di­ciary. He had in­di­cated a shakeup of the mil­i­tary was im­mi­nent and had also taken steps to in­crease his in­flu­ence over the ju­di­ciary.

It is not clear what ef­fect the post-coup purge will have on the ju­di­ciary, how the govern­ment will move to re­place the dis­missed judges and pros­e­cu­tors, or where the tri­als for those de­tained would be held.


Sup­port­ers of the Turk­ish pres­i­dent wave flags in Is­tan­bul’s Tak­sim Square Sun­day. Ob­servers worry the crack­down post-coup could lead to more au­thor­i­tar­ian rule.

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