Turkey detains more than 700 over alleged links to coup bid

Soldiers involved in the 2016 coup surrender on a bridge over the Bosphorus. (Getty Images)
Updated 12 February 2019
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Turkey detains more than 700 over alleged links to coup bid

  • Officials had sent to authorities in 75 provinces the names of 1,112 people under investigation over suspected ties to US-based preacher Fethullah Gulen and his movement
  • The Ankara public prosecutor’s office, which leads the coup investigation, said 130 people on the list of suspects were deputy police chiefs still on active duty

ANKARA: Turkish authorities detained 729 people in nationwide raids Tuesday over alleged links to a group blamed for a failed coup in 2016, the Ankara public prosecutor’s office said.
Officials had sent to authorities in 75 provinces the names of 1,112 people under investigation over suspected ties to US-based preacher Fethullah Gulen and his movement, it said.
Gulen is accused of ordering the attempted putsch, a claim he strongly denies.
Forty-five of those arrested were in the capital Ankara, a judicial source, who did not wish to be named, told AFP.
“We do not know whether the provincial authorities detained or summoned all of the individuals whose names were given,” the source added.
The Ankara public prosecutor’s office, which leads the coup investigation, said 130 people on the list of suspects were deputy police chiefs still on active duty.
They are suspected of having obtained questions before sitting the 2010 exam to become inspectors, it added in a statement.
Turkish officials defend the crackdown by pointing to what it describes as the Gulen group’s “virus”-like infiltration of key institutions, including the police.
Members of the movement are accused of cheating on entry exams to gain access to important public bodies.
Turkish Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu said Sunday that authorities “were planning a big operation” against the movement.
“Devils wouldn’t even conduct the tricks that they did,” Soylu said, adding that Turkey would “finish them off in this country.”
There have been regular raids across Turkey in recent weeks against alleged members of the movement, despite criticism from human rights defenders and Ankara’s Western allies over the scale of the crackdown.
Tens of thousands of people have been taken into custody over suspected links to Gulen since 2016 while over 100,000 — including teachers, police officers, and judges — have been sacked or suspended from the public sector.
Turkish Justice Minister Abdulhamit Gul said last month that 31,088 people have been convicted or jailed over suspected Gulen links.


Erdogan’s ‘vile’ comments on Christchurch mosques shootings dismissed as not representative of Muslims

Updated 56 min 41 sec ago
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Erdogan’s ‘vile’ comments on Christchurch mosques shootings dismissed as not representative of Muslims

  • Turkish president has threatened to "send home in coffins" visitors from Australia, New Zealand
  • Aussie and NZ leaders want Turkey to explain the "vile" and "offensive" remarks

JEDDAH: Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan was condemned on Wednesday for “vile, offensive and reckless” comments after last week’s Christchurch mosque terrorist attacks.

Australia summoned the Turkish ambassador in Canberra to explain the remarks, and New Zealand dispatched its foreign minister to Ankara to “set the record straight, face to face.”

Brenton Tarrant, 28, an Australian white supremacist, was charged with murder on Saturday after he shot dead 50 people during Friday prayers at two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand.

Erdogan, in election campaign rallies for his AK Party, urged New Zealand to restore the death penalty and said Turkey would make the killer pay if New Zealand did not.

He said anti-Muslim Australians who came to Turkey would be “sent back in coffins, like their grandfathers at Gallipoli,” and he accused Australian and New Zealand forces of invading Turkey during the First World War “because it is Muslim land.”

But an international affairs scholar in Riyadh said Erdogan’s comments should not be taken as representative of Muslims. 

"He is a propagandist and an unpredictable politician,” Dr. Hamdan Al-Shehri told Arab News. “He keeps saying these things and then he issues an apology. Right now, he is making these incendiary comments to win elections.”

It was inappropriate behavior for a head of state, Al-Shehri said. “Which president would use such language and issue these kind of comments?”

In his speech, Erdogan said that the Gallipoli peninsula campaign in 1915 was in fact an attempt by British colonial forces to relieve their Russian allies. The attack was a military disaster, and more than 11,000 Australian and New Zealand forces were killed. Thousands of people from both countries travel each year to Turkey for war memorial services, and the anniversary is marked on Anzac Day every April 25.

“Remarks have been made by the Turkish President Erdogan that I consider highly offensive to Australians and highly reckless in this very sensitive environment,” Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison said after summoning the Turkish ambassador and dismissing the “excuses” offered.

“I am expecting, and I have asked, for these comments to be clarified, to be withdrawn.” Morrison described claims about Australia and New Zealand’s response to the white supremacist attack as “vile.” He accused Erdogan of betraying the promise of Mustafa Kemal Ataturk to forge peace between the two countries.

A memorial at Gallipoli carries Ataturk’s words: “There is no difference between the Johnnies and the Mehmets ... after having lost their lives on this land they have become our sons as well.”

“Ataturk sought to transform his country into a modern nation and an embracing nation, and I think these comments are at odds with that spirit,” Morrison said.

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said her deputy, Foreign Minister Winston Peters, would travel to Turkey to seek clarification of Erdogan’s comments. “He is going there to set the record straight, face-to-face,” she said.