ISTANBUL – Turkey said it had dismissed a further 10,000 civil servants and closed 15 more media outlets over suspected links with terrorist organizations and U.S.-based cleric Fethullah Gulen, blamed by Ankara for orchestrating a failed coup in July.
More than 100,000 people had already been sacked or suspended and 37,000 arrested since the failed coup, in an unprecedented crackdown the government says is necessary to root out all supporters of Gulen from the state apparatus.
Thousands more academics, teachers, health workers, prison guards and forensics experts were among the latest to be removed from their posts through two new executive decrees published on the Official Gazette late on Saturday.
Opposition parties described the move as a coup in itself. The continued crackdown has also raised concerns over the functioning of state.
“What the government and Erdogan are doing right now is a direct coup against the rule of law and democracy,” Sezgin Tanrikulu, an MP from the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP), said in a Periscope broadcast posted on Twitter.
The decrees have ordered the closure of 15 more newspapers, wires and magazines, which report from the largely Kurdish southeast, bringing the total number of media organizations closed since the emergency rule in July to nearly 160.
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In another move set to anger President Tayyip Erdogan‘s opponents, the ability of universities to elect their own rectors was also abolished. Erdogan will from now on directly appoint the rectors from the candidates nominated by the High Educational Board (YOK).
The extent of the crackdown has worried rights groups and many of Turkey‘s Western allies, who fear Erdogan is using the emergency rule to eradicate dissent. The government says the actions are justified following the coup attempt on July 15, when more than 240 people died.
Lale Karabiyik, another CHP lawmaker, said the move was a clear misuse of the emergency rule decrees and described it as a coup d’etat on the high education system. Pro-Kurdish opposition said the decrees were used as tools to establish a ‘one-man regime’.
The government extended the state of emergency imposed after the coup attempt for three months until mid-January. Erdogan said the authorities needed more time to wipe out the threat posed by Gulen’s network as well as Kurdish militants who have waged a 32-year insurgency.
Ankara wants the United States to detain and extradite Gulen so that he can be prosecuted in Turkey on a charge that he masterminded the attempt to overthrow the government. Gulen, who has lived in self-imposed exile in Pennsylvania since 1999, denies any involvement.
Speaking to reporters at a reception marking the Republic Day on Saturday, Erdogan said the nation wanted the reinstatement of the death penalty, a debate which has emerged following the coup attempt, and added that delaying it would not be right.
“I believe this issue will come to the parliament,” he said, and repeated that he would approve it, a move that would sink Turkey‘s hopes of European Union membership. Erdogan shrugged off such concerns, saying that much of the world had capital punishment.