Turkey dismisses thousands of civil servants, closes media outlets as post-coup crackdown continues

By bne IntelliNews October 31, 2016

Turkey’s government dismissed nearly 10,000 civil servants and closed 15 media outlets over alleged links to US-based cleric Fethullah Gulen, who Ankara says masterminded the failed July 15 coup attempt.

More than 100,000 people had been already suspended from public posts and nearly 38,000 arrested in the wake of the botches putsch in a crackdown on supporters of Gulen. The government has vowed to cleanse state apparatus of all Gulen supporters which it claimed have infiltrated the country’s key institutions - the police force, army, judiciary and ministries.

Thousands more civil servants at the education, health and justice ministries were sacked over the weekend through an executive decree published on the Official Gazette on October 29. Through another decree, the government closed 15 media outlets, including pro-Kurdish newspapers, one news agency, and two magazines, on the charge of spreading terror propaganda.

On October 31, the police detained the editor-in-chief of Cumhuriyet, one of the prominent opposition newspapers. Prosecutors reportedly have issued detention warrants for 13 executives and writers of the newspaper for making propaganda for the Gulenist network and the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK)

With the new decree issued at the weekend, the government also scrapped elections at universities that allowed universities choose their own rectors. The president has been now given powers to directly appoint rectors among candidates to be proposed by the Higher Education Board.

On a separate note, in a speech at the weekend, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan reiterated that he supports the idea of reintroducing the death penalty. The parliament cannot stay indifferent to the public demand for the instalment of the capital punishment, Erdogan said, according to Hurriyet Daily News. “I believe the government will bring it [the death penalty] to parliament, and parliament will pass it with the right decision”, he added.

The ruling Justice and Development party (AKP) is currently working on constitutional amendments to give the president more executive powers. It is unclear when the AKP will send its proposals to parliament. The nationalist opposition party MHP signalled that it could support the AKP’s bid to change the country’s charter while the main opposition CHP and pro-Kurdish party HDP are against the introduction of an executive presidential system.

If MHP lawmakers back the AKP’s plans, then the ruling party will be able to put the presidential system to a referendum which some analysts say could increase political tensions and social polarisation. But the government argues that Turkey needs a strong leadership for better economic management and better coordination of state affairs.

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