In Brief

Turkey suspends 12,800 police officers from duty

Recep Tayyip Erdogan continues to strengthen his grip on power after July's failed military coup

Turkey's President Erdogan heads to Russia for a fresh start with Putin

9 August 2016

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey is to use his first official visit overseas since last month's failed coup to meet his Russian counterpart, Vladimir Putin, and "cement a sharp turnaround in relations" with the country, says the Wall Street Journal.

Today's summit in St Petersburg is the first time the leaders have met since Ankara apologised for the downing of a Russian fighter jet over Syria last year.

Kremlin insiders say talks are likely to focus on the Syrian conflict, regional trade, energy, a potential gas pipeline from Russia to Turkey and the resumption of Russian charter flights to Turkey.

"Our countries have a lot to do together," said Erdogan.

Signs of the thaw began yesterday, when Turkish authorities unblocked the website of the Sputnik news agency, a Kremlin-funded news service.

Putin may see an opportunity to rekindle the Russia-Turkey relationship after Erdogan last week accused the West, and the US in particular, of supporting terrorism in Turkey.

However, Faruk Logoglu, a former Turkish ambassador to Washington, said he doubted the meeting would mean a full embrace of Russia or lasting damage to US ties.

"The Turkish-American relationship is like a catholic marriage: there is no divorce. Both sides need each other," he said.

Turkish officials have been "scrambling to deny that the meeting is a sign of the country turning its back on the West", says the Daily Express.

However, the stand-off between Ankara and the EU looks set to deepen after Austria threatened to use its veto to block further talks on Turkish membership in response to what it sees as Erdogan's crackdown on democratic freedoms.

The move "could jeopardise the EU's controversial migrant deal" and the Turkish government has already threatened to withdraw from the agreement "if its citizens are not granted visa-free travel to the Schengen Area by October", says the Daily Telegraph.

Erdogan backs return of death penalty in Turkey

8 August

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey has said he will bring the death penalty back into law if it is approved by parliament.

Speaking to an estimated one million people at the largest pro-government rally since last month's failed military coup, the country's leader said he would not stand in the way of the death penalty being reintroduced.

The rally was attended by religious leaders and two of Turkey's three opposition parties, says The Guardian, but "the pro-Kurdish People's Democracy party, or HDP, was not invited".

Last week, German foreign minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier warned bringing back the death penalty would "end [Turkey's] EU membership hopes", the Daily Telegraph reports.

But Erdogan was defiant. "They say there is no death penalty in the EU," he said. "Well, the US has it, Japan has it, China has it, most of the world has it. So they are allowed to have it. We used to have it until 1984. Sovereignty belongs to the people, so if the people make this decision I am sure the political parties will comply."

He also said he plans to cleanse Turkey "of all supporters of the US-based cleric Fethullah Gulen", whom Erdogan blames for the failed coup, despite the cleric's denials.

Erdogan assumes control of Turkish military

8 August 2016

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan yesterday introduced sweeping new powers to bring the country's military further under civilian control following the failed military coup on 15 July.

The latest decree is the third issued during a three-month state of emergency declared after the attempted putsch. It gives both the President and Prime Minister "the authority to issue direct orders to the commanders of the army, air force and navy", the Washington Post reports. 

Erdogan told the A Haber TV station this weekend that he will also take direct control of Turkey's MIT intelligence agency and the chief of the general staff's headquarters. 

In the two weeks since the attempted coup, the Turkish government has dismissed 66,000 public sector workers, detained 1,800 members of the military and cancelled up to 50,000 passports. Several journalists have been detained and 142 media outlets shut down. 

Yesterday's decree also hands the government far-reaching legal powers, including the authority to imprison suspects for 30 days without charge and to listen in on all conversations between suspects and their legal representatives.

The crackdown has "caused concern among Turkey's western allies", particularly with Germany, Sky News reports. Yesterday, a German court prevented Erdogan from making a televised address to a rally by pro-government Turks in Cologne.

Turkey's EU affairs minister, Omer Celik, criticised the German court's decision.

Erdogan has "stepped up his attacks on nations criticising his actions, telling them to 'mind your own business'" and renewed calls for the US to extradite Fethullah Gulen, the Muslim cleric Turkey blames for the failed coup, the Daily Telegraph says.

Erdogan's popularity soars amid Turkey's post-coup purge

21 July

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey declared a three-month state of emergency last night, as he stepped up the purge of soldiers and academics following last Friday's failed military coup.

"More than 50,000 state employees have been rounded up, sacked or suspended in the days since the coup attempt," says the BBC.

Turkey's government yesterday formally charged 99 generals and admirals accused of involvement in the attempted takeover.

It has also "reportedly banned Islamic funerals for dead coup supporters and warned imams not to carry out the ceremonies", says the Daily Mirror.

Academics can no longer travel abroad for work-related trips for the foreseeable future, while those currently overseas have been ordered to return home.

The latest developments follow the sacking of more than 21,000 private school teachers, the forced resignations of 1,577 university deans and the closure of 600 state schools.

Erdogan has also gutted the leadership of the security forces, detained a third of the military high-command, suspended 8,777 interior ministry personnel and police and revoked the licences of 24 radio and television companies.

"All the viruses within the armed forces must be cleansed," he said.

As more and more teachers, journalists, police and judges are "caught in a net the authorities are casting wider by the day", the government purge of vast section of Turkish society is "increasingly looking like a witch-hunt to suppress dissent", says CNN.

However, Erdogan's popularity has soared, even as basic civil liberties are dramatically curtailed.

The President's domestic appeal "perplexes some western observers, who know him mainly for his increasingly authoritarian actions", says Patrick Kingsley in The Guardian.

Unusually, that support is drawn from the religiously conservative lower-classes, who have felt increasingly marginalised in modern, secular Turkey. Even Erdogan's critics agree that, since he assumed power in 2003, the economy has grown steadily, the country's infrastructure has improved and the health system has been radically reformed.

Erdogan's supporters "are able to swallow his authoritarianism partly because they feel it is justified", says Kingsley.

In the past, the President has presented the suppression of opposition parties and dissenting voices as a legitimate response to threats to remove him for power. Now those threats have been realised, he appears to have been vindicated.

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