Turkey detains generals, journalists in widening purge post-coup – Warns against witch hunt

FILE - In this Thursday, July 21, 2016 file photo, pro-government supporters protest against the attempted coupon, on the road leading to Istanbul's iconic Bosporus Bridge, background left. Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim said Monday, July 25, 2016 that Istanbul's Bosporus Bridge will be renamed "July 15th Martyrs' Bridge" in honor of civilians who died resisting Turkey's coup attempt. (AP Photo/Emrah Gurel, File)
FILE – In this Thursday, July 21, 2016 file photo, pro-government supporters protest against the attempted coupon, on the road leading to Istanbul’s iconic Bosporus Bridge, background left. Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim said Monday, July 25, 2016 that Istanbul’s Bosporus Bridge will be renamed “July 15th Martyrs’ Bridge” in honor of civilians who died resisting Turkey’s coup attempt. (AP 

ANKARA: Turkey’s opposition leader yesterday warned against a government witch hunt following the failed coup in the country, saying it would cast a shadow on the democracy which those who opposed the insurrection tried to protect. In an interview with The Associated Press, Kemal Kilicdaroglu also said the United States should extradite a US-based Muslim cleric whom the government accuses of being behind the failed July 15 uprising.

“Those who are innocent should not be thrown into the fire with those who are guilty,” said Kilicdaroglu, leader of the pro-secular main opposition Republican People’s Party. “The start of a witch hunt would cast a shadow on the struggle that is being led for democracy.”

Turkey has detained more than 13,000 people in the military, judiciary and other institutions in a purge in the wake of the attempted coup which killed about 290 people. Tens of thousands of others have been suspended from their jobs in sectors including education, health care, municipalities and even at the Turkish national airline.

Those who have been purged are accused of ties to the movement led by US-based cleric Fethullah Gulen, although their direct links to the coup attempt is not clear. Gulen has denied any part in the foiled uprising by a faction within Turkey’s military.

‘Top Afghanistan general held’
On Tuesday, two Turkish generals serving in Afghanistan and a former Istanbul governor were detained as part of the crackdown. The two generals were caught in Dubai, while the governor, Huseyin Avni Mutlu, who served from 2010-2014, was detained in Istanbul, an official at the office of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said. The official spoke on condition of anonymity in line with regulations on speaking to the media.

In another crackdown, police and prosecutors searched the Istanbul-based naval academy, an official said. At least 110 Culture and Tourism Ministry employees were suspended and detention warrants were issued for 29 lawyers in the central Turkish city of Konya, the state-run Anadolu Agency reported.

Police on Tuesday also detained two more journalists a day after authorities issued warrants for the detention of 42 journalists, many of them who had worked for Gulen-linked media.

Kilicdaroglu cautioned that authorities should act within the law and pursue only those linked to the coup plot. “Are those who carried out the coup attempt guilty? Yes. The real culprits must be found,” Kilicdaroglu said. “If we go out of the norms of the law, then we are no different to the coup-plotters.”

“The detention of journalists is not a pretty development,” Kilicdaroglu added. “If they have direct ties to the coup, that’s a different matter. But the detention or arrest of a journalist for expressing opinions, for covering an issue is not right.”

Kilicdaroglu said he backed the government’s efforts for Gulen’s extradition from the United States. “It has been expressed that Fethullah Gulen was at the center of the coup attempt. It has been expressed that evidence (against Gulen) will be brought to light. If there is such an incident, then naturally Fethullah Gulen must be returned to Turkey,” he said.

Gulen himself insisted in an opinion piece he wrote for the New York Times, that he had nothing to do with the coup and had denounced it from the start, and called on the US to reject Turkey’s extradition request for him.

“Turkey’s president is blackmailing the United States by threatening to curb his country’s support for the international coalition against the Islamic State. His goal: to ensure my extradition, despite a lack of credible evidence and virtually no prospect for a fair trial. The temptation to give Mr. Erdogan whatever he wants is understandable. But the United States must resist it,” Gulen wrote.

“For the sake of worldwide efforts to restore peace in turbulent times, as well as to safeguard the future of democracy in the Middle East, the United States must not accommodate an autocrat who is turning a failed putsch into a slow-motion coup of his own against constitutional government,” Gulen said.

Gulen said that despite his “unequivocal protest, similar to statements issued by all three of the major opposition parties (denouncing the coup), Turkey’s increasingly authoritarian president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, immediately accused me of orchestrating the putsch.”

He insisted his philosophy was one of “inclusive and pluralist Islam” that rejected armed rebellion and espoused the respect of all regardless of religious or political views or ethnic origins. “In Turkey, the Erdogan government’s shift toward a dictatorship is polarizing the population along sectarian, political, religious and ethnic lines, fueling the fanatics,” Gulen wrote.-AP

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