UPDATE 05:31 a.m. EDT -- At the European Union Foreign Ministers' meeting in Brussels Monday, the EU and the United States said Turkey must respect democracy, human rights and fundamental freedoms in its response to Friday’s coup attempt.
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, who was also attending the meeting, said the U.S. supports bringing perpetrators of attempted coup in Turkey to justice. However, leaders were adamant that Turkey does not reinstate the death penalty.
A spokesperson for German Chancellor Angela Merkel said “introduction of death penalty would mean immediate suspension of accession talks” for Turkey. Austrian Foreign Minister Sebastian Kurz said it would be unacceptable for Turkey to reintroduce the death penalty, which it abolished in 2004, in order to obtain EU membership.
Merkel's spokesperson on Turkey: "Introduction of death penalty would mean immediate suspension of accession talks"
— Philip Oltermann (@philipoltermann) July 18, 2016
The country’s state-run media said the Interior Ministry has fired close to 9,000 people across the country, including 30 governors, the Associated Press reported. Reuters reported that about 8,000 police officers have been removed for suspected links to the dissidents.
UPDATE 3:03 a.m. EDT -- EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini Monday warned the Turkish president’s government against steps that would take away from constitutional order following a failed attempt at a military coup in the country.
“We were the first... during that tragic night to say that the legitimate institutions needed to be protected,” she said before an EU foreign ministers' meeting, Reuters reported. “We are the ones saying today rule of law has to be protected in the country,” she said in Brussels. “There is no excuse for any steps that takes the country away from that.”
World leaders warned Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan Sunday not to use Friday’s attempted military coup on his government as an excuse to override the rule of law as concerns regarding human rights have risen amid the crackdown on those allegedly involved in the effort to remove him from power.
A group within Turkey’s military attempted to overthrow Erdogan’s government late Friday. Warplanes were seen firing on key government locations as tanks came out on the streets of major cities. However, the attempt ended hours later as government forces managed to wrestle control of the military away from the putschists. Civilians took to the streets in support of the president as the world condemned the coup.
Prime Minister Binali Yildirim said Sunday the coup had failed and life returned to normal, the Associated Press (AP) reported. At least 294 people were killed and over 1,400 wounded, the government said.
Over 6,000 military personnel — generals and soldiers — have been arrested alongside members of the judiciary who are suspected of involvement with officials claiming that 2,745 judges and prosecutors have been dismissed. The number of soldiers rounded up is so high that schools and gymnasiums in Ankara are being used to detain lower ranked conscripts.
Addressing supporters in front of his residence Sunday evening, Erdogan responded to frequent calls of “We want the death penalty!” by saying, “We hear your request. In a democracy, whatever the people want they will get.” The country had abolished the death penalty in 2004, in a bid to join the European Union (EU).
European politicians, however, have warned Erdogan that the coup attempt cannot be used as “carte blanche to do whatever he wants.”
The Telegraph reported European Commissioner Guenther Oettinger as saying that Erdogan would move Turkey away from the core values of the EU and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization — of which Turkey has been a crucial member — if he used the attempt to restrict basic democratic rights in order to consolidate his power.
“He would strengthen his position domestically, but he would isolate himself internationally,” Oettinger said.
U.S. President Barack Obama also said he was concerned by pictures depicting the rough treatment of the arrested coup plotters — some of whom were stripped to their underwear and handcuffed, the Telegraph reported.
Erdogan said Turkey would request the U.S. to extradite Islamist cleric and longtime adversary of the president, Fethullah Gülen, who lives in self-imposed exile in Saylorsburgh, Pennsylvania.
At a funeral for his campaign manager Erol Olcak and his 16-year-old son, Abdullah Tayyip Olcak, in Istanbul, Erdogan vowed to “clean all state institutions of the virus” of Gülen’s supporters.
Gulen, however, has strongly denied any involvement in or knowledge of the coup. “As someone who suffered under multiple military coups during the past five decades, it is especially insulting to be accused of having any link to such an attempt,” he said.
He went on to state the possibility the coup attempt had been staged by Erdogan himself to purge the military of his opponents, saying it had “all the signs of a movie scenario,” AP reported.
The U.S. stated Saturday that it would support the Turkish government’s “legitimate investigative efforts” aimed at unearthing details about the coup attempt. However, so far, officials have not offered evidence Gülen was involved.
“We fully anticipate that there will be questions raised about Mr. Gülen, and obviously, we invite the Government of Turkey, as we always do, to present us with any legitimate evidence that stands – withstands scrutiny, and the United States will accept that and look at it and make judgments about it appropriately,” U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry told reporters in Luxembourg.
Nigar Goksel, a senior Turkey analyst for the Brussels-based International Crisis Group, said there were two possible alternatives for Erdogan from here onwards. “Either Erdogan utilizes this incident to redesign institutions in Ankara to his own benefit,” she said, “or he takes the opportunity with the solidarity that was extended to him by the opposition and different segments of society to reciprocate by investing more genuinely in rule of law and legitimate forms of dissent,” the New York Times reported.
However, reports say that considering Erdogan’s history, the latter seems less likely as each challenge to his power has seen him sidelining his enemies and becoming more autocratic in the handling of affairs.