Post-coup crackdown continues as government fires thousands of employees and closes down 15 pro-Kurdish media groups.
Turkey has dismissed another 10,000 civil servants and closed 15 more media outlets over suspected links with “terrorist organisations” and US-based cleric Fethullah Gulen, blamed by Ankara for orchestrating a failed coup.
More than 100,000 people have already been sacked or suspended and 37,000 arrested since the July coup attempt, in an unprecedented crackdown the government says is necessary to root out all coup supporters from the state apparatus.
Thousands more academics, teachers, health workers, prison guards and forensics experts were among the latest to be removed from their posts through two new executive decrees issued late on Saturday.
Opposition parties denounced the continued crackdown, which has also raised concerns over the functioning of the state.
“What the government and [President Tayyip] Erdogan are doing right now is a direct coup against the rule of law and democracy,” Sezgin Tanrikulu, an MP from the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP), said in a Periscope broadcast posted on Twitter.
Fifteen more newspapers, wires, and magazines that report from the largely Kurdish southeast were shuttered, bringing the total number of media organisations closed to nearly 160.
In another move, the ability of universities to elect their own rectors was also abolished. President Erdogan will now directly appoint nominees.
The extent of the crackdown has worried rights groups and many of Turkey’s Western allies, who fear Erdogan is using emergency rule to eradicate dissent. The government said its actions are justified following the coup attempt on July 15, when more than 240 people died.
Erdogan has said authorities need more time to wipe out the threat posed by the coup plotters, as well as Kurdish armed groups that have waged a 32-year insurgency that has killed about 40,000 people.
Ankara wants the United States to detain and extradite Gulen so that he can be prosecuted in Turkey on a charge that he masterminded the attempt to overthrow the government. Gulen, who has lived in self-imposed exile in Pennsylvania since 1999, denies any involvement.
Speaking to reporters at a reception marking Republic Day on Saturday, Erdogan said he wants the reinstatement of the death penalty, a debate that emerged following the coup attempt.
“I believe this issue will come to the parliament,” he said, repeating he would approve it – a move that would sink Turkey’s hopes of European Union membership. Erdogan shrugged off such concerns, saying much of the world had capital punishment.
The Council of Europe warned Turkey against re-establishing the death penalty on Sunday.
“Executing the death penalty is incompatible with membership of the Council of Europe,” the 47-member organisation, which includes Turkey, tweeted.
Turkey abolished capital punishment in 2004 as the nation sought accession to the EU.
Austrian Foreign Minister Sebastian Kurz added to the council’s warning, denouncing Turkey for considering a move that would “slam the door shut to the European Union”.
“The death penalty is a cruel and inhumane form of punishment, which has to be abolished worldwide and stands in clear contradiction to the European values,” Kurz told the Austrian Press Agency.