Turkey purged its police on Monday after rounding up thousands of soldiers in the wake of a failed military coup, and said it could reconsider its friendship with the United States unless Washington hands over a cleric Ankara blames for the putsch.
The sacking of thousands of police officers followed orders for the detention of thousands of judges and prosecutors in the aftermath of Friday night’s coup, in which more than 200 people were killed when a faction of the armed forces tried to seize power.
The swift response, including calls to reinstate the death penalty for plotters, drew concern from Western allies who said Ankara must uphold the rule of law in the country, a NATO member that is Washington’s most powerful Muslim ally.
Thousands of members of the armed forces, from foot soldiers to commanders, were rounded up on Sunday, some shown in photographs stripped to their underpants and handcuffed on the floors of police buses and a sports hall. Several thousand prosecutors and judges have also been removed.
A senior security official told Reuters that 8,000 police officers, including in the capital Ankara and the biggest city Istanbul, had been removed from their posts on suspicion of links to Friday’s coup bid.
Thirty regional governors and more than 50 high-ranking civil servants have also been dismissed, CNN Turk said. Annual leave was suspended for more than 3 million civil servants, and those already on leave were ordered back to their posts.
In the latest violence, an unidentified assailant burst into the office of the deputy mayor of a district in Istanbul and shot him in the head.
Prime Minister Binali Yildirim said 7,543 people had so far been detained, including 6,038 soldiers.
Turkey blames the failed coup on Fethullah Gulen, a cleric based in the United States who has a wide following in Turkey and denies any involvement.
Ankara has demanded Washington hand him over. Washington says it is prepared to extradite him but only if Turkey provides evidence linking him to crime. Yildirim rejected that demand.
“We would be disappointed if our (American) friends told us to present proof even though members of the assassin organization are trying to destroy an elected government under the directions of that person,” Yildirim said.
“At this stage there could even be a questioning of our friendship,” Yildirim added.
Yildirim said 232 people were killed in Friday night’s violence, 208 of them civilians, police and loyalist soldiers, and a further 24 coup plotters. Officials previously said the overall death toll was more than 290.
ERDOGAN’S PLANE IN REBEL SIGHTS
Around 1,400 others were wounded as soldiers commandeered tanks, attack helicopters and fighter jets in their bid to seize power, strafing parliament and the intelligence headquarters and trying to seize the main airport and bridges in Istanbul.
The coup crumbled after President Tayyip Erdogan, on holiday at the coast, phoned in to a television news program and called for his followers to take to the streets. He was able to fly into Istanbul in the early hours of Saturday, after rebel pilots had his plane in their sights but did not shoot it down.
On Sunday he told crowds of supporters, called to the streets by the government and by mosques across the country, that parliament must consider their demands to apply the death penalty for the plotters.
“We cannot ignore this demand,” he told a chanting crowd outside his house in Istanbul late on Sunday. “In democracies, whatever the people say has to happen.”
He called on Turks to take to the streets every evening until Friday, and late into Sunday night his supporters thronged squares and streets, honking horns and waving flags.
Turkey gave up the death penalty in 2004 as part of a program of reforms required to become a candidate to join the EU. Germany said on Monday that Turkey would lose its EU status if it reinstates the death penalty.
Yildirim said Turkey should not act hastily over the death penalty but could not ignore the demands of its people. -Reuters