Tensions with the West rise as Turkey continues purge of plotters

Published 10:06 am Tuesday, July 19, 2016

ANKARA, Turkey — The purging of thousands of alleged plotters of a failed coup raised tensions Monday between Turkey and the West, with U.S. and European officials urging restraint, while Ankara insisted that Washington extradite an exile accused of orchestrating the plot.

Authorities have fired nearly 9,000 police officers, bureaucrats and others, while detaining thousands more alleged to have been involved in Friday night’s attempted coup, the state-run Anadolu news agency reported.

Former air force commander Akin Ozturk, alleged to be the ringleader of the uprising, was put under arrest following questioning by a magistrate along with 25 other suspects, the news agency said. Ozturk, who has denied involvement and insisted he had tried to suppress the rebellion, appeared in video from Turkish TV looking bruised with a bandage over his ear.

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President Recep Tayyip Erdogan refused to rule out bringing back the death penalty, telling the U.S. cable TV station CNN in an interview via a government translator, “There is a clear crime of treason.” He added that it would be up to parliament to decide.

“if they accept to discuss it then I as president will approve any decision that comes out of the parliament,” he said. He said Turks have been calling for the reinstatement of the death penalty because of the increased terror attacks and demand for swift justice.

Anadolu said 8,777 employees attached to the Interior Ministry were dismissed, including 30 governors, 52 civil service inspectors and 16 legal advisers. Other media reports said police, military police and members of the coast guard also were removed from duty.

During the uprising by a faction of the military, warplanes fired on government buildings and tanks rolled into the streets of major cities before the rebellion was put down by forces loyal to the government and pro-Erdogan civilians who took to the streets. The top brass did not support the coup.

Erdogan told CNN that he escaped death by only a few minutes before coup plotters stormed the resort in southwest Turkey where he was vacationing last weekend when the coup unfolded.

He said soldiers supporting the coup killed two of his bodyguards when they stormed the resort early Saturday.

“Had I stayed 10, 15 additional minutes, I would have been killed or I would have been taken,” he told CNN.