ANKARA, Turkey (AP) — Turkey blamed military officers loyal to a U.S.-based Muslim cleric Fethullah Gulen for a failed military coup attempt on July 15, 2016 and declared a state of emergency five days later to clampdown on a vast network of alleged Gulen supporters in the military and other state institutions. The state of emergency led to mass arrests and purges.
Opponents say President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s government used its emergency powers to crackdown on all dissent — not just Gulen’s movement. The cleric denies involvement in the coup.
The two-year-old state of emergency expired in July, after Erdogan kept to an electoral campaign promise not to extend it, but new anti-terror laws enacted since then allow authorities to press ahead with mass purges of public employees.
Some 160,000 people were detained for questioning, of which over 77,000 were formally arrested for alleged links to terror organizations, including Gulen’s network and outlawed Kurdish rebels. Those arrested include military personnel, police, journalists, lawmakers, judges and prosecutors.
According to Justice Ministry figures, close to 35,000 people put on trial for links to Gulen’s network have been convicted so far. Around 14,000 others were acquitted.
More than 130,000 people have been purged from the public service through emergency government decrees. Those dismissed include tens of thousands of teachers and close to 6,000 academics. Around 1,300 people were re-instated to jobs by a commission that was set up to review cases but 18,000 other appeals were rejected.
Some 170 generals and around 7,000 other senior military officers were arrested as part of the crackdown. At least 58 generals and 629 senior officers have been convicted to life terms in prison so far in trials against military officers, according to Justice Ministry figures. Eight generals were acquitted.
At least 143 journalists or media workers are currently behind bars, most accused of links to Gulen or Kurdish rebels, according to the Turkish Journalists Syndicate. Using emergency decrees, the government closed down around 200 media organizations, including newspapers, periodicals, radio stations and television channels.
Ten legislators from Turkey’s pro-Kurdish political party, including former co-chairs Selahattin Demirtas and Figen Yuksekdag, are in prison on terror charges for alleged links to Kurdish militants. Enis Berberoglu, a legislator from the main opposition Republican People’s Party, is in prison convicted of espionage for giving an opposition newspaper images allegedly showing Turkey’s intelligence agency trucking weapons into Syria.
Human rights activist and businessman Osman Kavala is in jail pending trial, accused of seeking to overthrow the government and having alleged links to Gulen. Eleven prominent activists were arrested last year at their hotel on an island off of Istanbul while on training. They were eventually released from jail pending the outcome of their trial for supporting terror groups. Among them was Taner Kilic, Amnesty International’s former Turkey chairman, who was released earlier this month.