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More Arrests In Turkey As State Of Emergency Takes Effect

  • RFE/RL

Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan addresses the nation in a live television broadcast from the presidential palace in Ankara on July 21.

Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan addresses the nation in a live television broadcast from the presidential palace in Ankara on July 21.

A three-month state of emergency came into force in Turkey on July 21, a move President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said was necessary and did not violate the rule of law or basic freedoms of citizens.

Authorities say the emergency state will enable them to take swift and effective action against those responsible for last week's failed military coup, which left more than 260 people dead and 1,500 injured.

Erdogan’s government has said a "cancer virus" within some state institutions led to the July 15 coup attempt, and launched mass purges of state institutions that threaten tens of thousands of people.

The state of emergency, which Erdogan said was necessary and fully in line with Turkey's constitution, began at 1 a.m. local time on June 21.

Turkey's parliament endorsed the state of emergency on July 21, with legislators in the 550-member parliament voting 356-115 in favor.

Media reports said that, in an unusual move after the state of emergency was announced, Erdogan read out the morning call to prayer through loudspeakers at the mosque inside his presidential palace early on July 21.

Meanwhile, eight Turkish military officers who fled by military helicopter and applied for asylum in Greece after the abortive coup have gone on trial in the northern Greek city of Alexandroupolis for illegal entry. If convicted, they face up to five years in prison.

Turkish authorities insist they will receive fair treatment at home, despite indications of rough treatment in the postcoup crackdown by Erdogan's government.

In Turkey, hours after the state of emergency went into effect, Turkish media reported that 32 more judges and two military officers were detained by authorities on July 21 as part of the massive crackdown.

Erdogan’s government has already fired, suspended, or detained nearly 60,000 police, judges, civil servants, and teachers in an unprecedented reprisal following the failed coup that has stunned world leaders.

Nearly one-third of Turkey's roughly 360 serving generals have been detained. The Defense Ministry is investigating all military judges and prosecutors and has suspended 262 of them, broadcaster NTV reported, while 900 police officers in Ankara were also suspended on July 20.

Turkey’s education system has been hit particularly hard during the ongoing crackdown. The Education Ministry on July 20 added more than 6,500 new names to the list of 15,200 school employees suspended, state media reported.

Turkish plainclothes policemen accompany detained soldiers following the failed coup attempt as they arrive at an Istanbul court July 20.

Turkish plainclothes policemen accompany detained soldiers following the failed coup attempt as they arrive at an Istanbul court July 20.

The government also started proceedings to close down more than 600 educational institutions, most of them private schools. In addition, 21,000 teachers at private institutions have had their licenses revoked and more than 1,500 university deans have been forced to resign.

Many of the thousands targeted by the government are purported to be followers of Fethullah Gulen, an Islamic cleric living in self-imposed exile in the United States who Erdogan blames for the coup attempt.

The 75-year-old Gullen, a former ally of Erdogan, has condemned the coup attempt and rejected having any involvement in it.

The newly imposed state of emergency will allow the president and cabinet to bypass parliament in passing new laws and to limit or suspend rights and freedoms as they deem necessary.

Erdogan announced the emergency in a live television broadcast in front of government ministers after a meeting of the National Security Council that lasted nearly five hours on July 20.

"The aim of the declaration of the state of emergency is to be able to take fast and effective steps against this threat against democracy, the rule of law, and rights and freedoms of our citizens," Erdogan said on state television after a five-hour cabinet meeting in Ankara.

"This practice is absolutely not against democracy, rule of law, and freedom -- the opposite. It has the purposes of protecting and strengthening these values," he said.

Erdogan and his deputies sought to reassure the Turkish public there would be no restrictions on press freedom or personal freedom.

However, under a state of emergency the government can impose curfews, ban news media, interdict traffic, cancel private gatherings, and conduct searches of private homes, among other things.

"It isn't martial law of 1990s," Turkish Deputy Prime Minister Mehmet Simsek wrote on Twitter. "Life of ordinary people and businesses will go unimpacted, uninterrupted, business will be as usual....It won't be any different from [emergency states] imposed by our European partners."

The last state of emergency in Turkey was lifted in 2002 in two southeastern provinces.

Erdogan sought to reassure investors who have been fleeing from Turkish markets since the coup attempt, saying economic reforms would continue.

The lira hit a record low against the dollar on July 20 before slightly recovering July 21, while the Istanbul stock index dropped 9.5 percent as of July 20, its worst performance since 2013.

Ratings agency Standard & Poor's precipitated another downturn in the markets on July 20 by downgrading the nation's credit rating by one notch, putting it further into junk-bond territory.

It cited as reasons "the polarization of Turkey's political landscape" and "eroding institutional checks and balances."

Erdogan derided the downgrade and Standard & Poor's in a nationwide televised address late on July 20, saying the agency's decision was "political" but would not harm Turkey.

In a first Western reaction to Erdogan’s move to declare a state of emergency, German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier on July 21 urged Turkey to maintain both the rule of law and a sense of proportionality in its response to the coup attempt.

Steinmeier also called on Erdogan to restrict the state of emergency to only the truly necessary length of time, and to end the measure as quickly as possible.

Dutch Foreign Minister Bert Koenders has also voiced “serious concerns” about the turn of events in Turkey.

Russia, which recently appeared to patch up briefly strained relations with Ankara, refrained from commenting on the Turkish move. Kremlin press secretary Dmitry Peskov told reporters on July 21, "This is an internal affair of Turkey." Peskov also rejected a July 20 report by Iran’s Fars news agency that said Erdogan had received a warning from Russia about an imminent military coup hours before it was initiated.

Fars said the warning was based on data Russian military in the region received intercepting "highly sensitive army exchanges and encoded radio messages showing that the Turkish Army was readying to stage a coup."

"I don't have such information and I don't know the sources which Fars is referring to," Peskov said.

Austria has summoned Turkey's ambassador to explain Ankara's connection with demonstrations in Austria in Erdogan’s support, Foreign Minister Sebastian Kurz said on July 21.

Kurz told Austrian radio the ambassador would be asked whether Turkish officials encouraged thousands of people in Austria to take to the streets over recent days in support of Erdogan.

Kurz said authorities “have evidence that the demonstrations for Erdogan that have taken place in Vienna were called for directly from Turkey,” an action which he called “absolutely untenable.”

With reporting by Reuters, dpa, and AFP