Turkish authorities have arrested more than 13,000 people believed to be tied to the coup attempt and have gutted the country’s civil services sector suspending over 60,000 educators, judges and police.
“‘Why should I keep them and feed them in prisons for years to come?’ – that’s what the people say,” said Erdogan. “The people now have the idea, after so many terrorist incidents, that these terrorists should be killed, that’s where they are, they don’t see any other outcome to it.”
In the wake of the coup, the Erdogan government immediately withdrew from the jurisdiction of the European Court of Human Rights, which bans executions, raising the likelihood of mass executions.
Erdogan’s Turkey now finds itself in a state of disrepair in the wake of a failed coup attempt that left at least 246 dead and more than 2,000 injured as the country’s president called his people to go into the streets and clash with the military forces attempting to overthrow the government. The coup forces, which labelled themselves a Peace Council, opened fire on civilians with helicopters, tanks, and automatic rifles.
Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim said on Saturday authorities had imprisoned over 13,000 people on accusations of treason, including 8,831 soldiers and 2,745 judges – 36% of the entire Turkish judiciary.
“The cleansing is continuing, and we remain very determined,” President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said in a speech late Wednesday describing opposition as a “virus” within the Turkish military and state institutions that had spread like “cancer.”
Many worry that the government’s dragnet has extended well beyond those who could have been connected to the botched coup plot or even sympathizers to the cause in light of President Erdogan’s move in June to pass a constitutional amendment revoking legislative immunity for Kurdish opposition lawmakers from the HDP. Erdogan also successfully pushed to expand the country’s “terrorist” laws to extend to virtually any opposition member deemed by decree.
Erdogan has proven to have a tenuous grasp of the notion of civil liberties and democracy cracking down with wanton fury against opposition journalists and, in fact, criminalizing nearly all forms of opposition to his government. Still many wonder whether the increasingly autocratic Turkish government is willing to execute thousands which would all but forever exclude the country from the European Union and NATO limiting Erdogan’s level of influence on the international stage.
Equally troubling are the prison conditions for those accused of treason, an imprisonment of the kind that may be worse than death and that is to persist indefinitely for those convicted. The conditions evidenced in the photo below suggest that whether or not the accused are formally executed their time may be limited.
Will the Erdogan regime fly off the rails even further and engage in a public horror show leading to the deaths of thousands? The leadership may overestimate their hand in light of NATO’s decision to increase funding to Turkey following the 1980 coup where over 650,000 individuals were arrested, over 500 were executed, and hundreds of others died in prison.
That appears to be the case with the Turkish Labor Minister accusing the United States of being behind the coup attempt in an interview with HaberTurk last week followed by Prime Minister Binali Yildirim threatening all-out war on “any country” that supports alleged coup mastermind and US-based cleric Fethullah Gulen – a not so veiled warning to the United States.
Additionally, the rift between the United States and Turkey once thought to be impossible looks to worsen in the coming weeks as Washington continues to deny Ankara’s extradition request citing US law that expressly prohibits extraditing an individual without sufficient evidence – a condition not required in Turkey.
The legal challenges faced by the Obama administration appear to be lost on Erdogan who said to the Obama administration “So now you ask someone to be extradited, you’re my strategic partner I do obey, I do abide by that, but you don’t do the same thing – well, of course, there should be reciprocity in the types of things.”
Despite the Erdogan regime’s willingness to arrest tens of thousands while the world intently watches, its cavalier threats and accusations against its long-time ally, and a statement by President Erdogan himself calling for mass executions the prospect remains almost unthinkable although only time will tell.