Turkey’s state of emergency begins; critics fear overreach

Published 10:19 am Friday, July 22, 2016

ISTANBUL — Turkey’s president triumphantly rallied supporters after prayers at a mosque Friday as his government announced new details about the state of emergency imposed after an attempted coup.

The changes included extending the period that suspects can be detained without charges to up to a week.

“Victory belongs to the faithful,” President Recep Tayyip Erdogan told hundreds of people outside a mosque in Ankara, the capital. He said pro-government protesters faced down guns and tanks during the July 15 uprising and accused followers of U.S.-based cleric Fethullah Gulen, the alleged director of the uprising, of mocking the Turkish people.

Email newsletter signup

Gulen has strongly denied any knowledge of the attempted military coup.

“Here is the army, here is the commander!” the crowd in Ankara chanted. They also called for the reintroduction of the death penalty for use against coup plotters, a request that Erdogan has said he would consider despite concerns that it would violate Turkey’s international commitments and rupture ties with Europe.

Germany has expressed concern about the rule of law in Turkey, saying several people detained in the wake of the failed coup appeared to have been mistreated.

“(This) raises troubling questions, if accused people are seen on television or photos bearing clear traces of physical violence,” Steffen Seibert, spokesman for the German government, told reporters Friday in Berlin.

Germany hopes Turkey’s state of emergency will be as short as possible and that it would have no impact on a deal between the EU and Ankara to halt the flow of migrants crossing to Europe, Seibert said.

Turkey’s parliament on Thursday approved the three-month state of emergency, which gives Erdogan sweeping new powers. He has said the state of emergency will counter threats to Turkish democracy, though critics are urging restraint because they fear the measure will violate basic freedoms.

Justice Minister Bekir Bozdag told broadcaster CNN Turk that the period of detention that most suspects can be held without charges will be extended from 1-2 days to about one week in the first stage of the state of emergency.

The Turkish government has already imposed a crackdown that has included mass arrests, mass firings and closing hundreds of schools allegedly linked to Gulen, who lives in self-imposed exile in Pennsylvania.

Those targeted in the crackdown include prominent journalist Orhan Kemal Cengiz and his wife, Sibel Hurtas, who were detained at Istanbul’s main international airport as they prepared to leave the country Thursday. They were taken to police headquarters for questioning, the state-run Anadolu news agency reported.

Turkey’s prime minister, Binali Yildirim, praised most Turkish media for quickly criticizing the attempted coup but he railed against foreign media reports that he said provided “one-sided coverage under the influence of this organization of assassins,” a reference to supporters of Gulen.

The government says 246 pro-government people — forces and civilians — died during the attempted coup, and at least 24 coup plotters were also killed.

Some media have cited concerns that Erdogan’s crackdown is at least partly designed to sideline legitimate opposition to his government and expand his power.

The Vienna-based Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, or OSCE, has asked for access to the trials against alleged coup plotters in Turkey.

“Turkey needs to be reminded regularly that, after parts of the military tried to change the country, it would be a bitter irony now if the government would change the democratic state from above,” Michael Georg Link, director of the OSCE’s office for democratic institutions and human rights, told Germany’s rbb-Inforadio.