Former Turkish military officers posted to NATO in Europe are seeking asylum there after a failed coup earlier this year to overthrow the Turkish President Recap Tayyip Erdogan, NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said Friday. Stoltenberg said Turkey remains a vital NATO ally and would have to respect NATO’s verdict about whether the military officials would be granted asylum in the European counties where they were working.
Turkish authorities discharged hundreds of senior military staff members serving with NATO in Europe and the Unites States after the July 15 coup, Reuters reported Friday. At least two Turkish military officials, who were working with NATO before being fired by the Turkish government in September, are seeking asylum in Belgium.
More than 400 military staff members and diplomats had been summoned back to Turkey by the government, but some elected not to return, citing colleagues of theirs that had been imprisoned in the aftermath of the coup without the ability to contact lawyers or family members. Greek authorities said eight Turkish military officers fled to the city of Alexandroupoli after the July coup, the Guardian reported Friday.
U.S. and EU officials expressed human rights concerns over the Turkish government’s use of emergency laws aimed at cracking down on potential planners of the July coup, BBC reported Friday. Turkey has discharged, detained or arrested hundreds of thousands of people under these laws, which allowed Erdogan and his cabinet to rule by decree. While the majority of those people were in the military, others included teachers, policemen, judges and journalists.
Free speech in the country had been at risk since the coup, with 3,000 Turks accused of insulting the president and 150 national news outlets closed, the New York Times reported Thursday. There was a recent push by the Turkish government to allow businesses loyal to it to take ownership of the remaining media outlets.
At least 76 academics were detained at a university in Istanbul Friday as part of the ongoing clampdown, according to another New York Times report. In all, more than 100,000 Turks were fired from the government jobs they originally had before the failed coup, mainly in military, civil service and judiciary positions. Roughly 36,000 of those who were jailed are still awaiting their trials.
Stoltenberg, who was scheduled to visit Istanbul Sunday, said because of these firings there was a great deal of “changeovers in the NATO command structure” in Turkey. Stoltenberg condemned the July coup and said he expected the Turkish government to fill all of its posts.
More than 240 people, many of who were civilians, died in the coup attempt. The Turkish Armed Forces cited the alleged rise of secularism within Turkish politics and the government’s disregard for human rights as reasons for the coup. Erdogan, who issued a 3-month state of emergency in response, said the plotters had tried to assassinate him in a bombing in the Turkish Mediterranean resort town Marmaris.