Turkey's Erdogan slams US reaction to failed coup

AP News
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Posted: Jul 29, 2016 5:15 PM
Turkey's Erdogan slams US reaction to failed coup

ANKARA, Turkey (AP) — Turkey's president slammed the United States on Friday, claiming it was not standing firmly against a failed military coup and accused it of harboring the plot's alleged mastermind, as a government crackdown in the coup's aftermath strained Turkey's ties with key allies.

Turkey has demanded the United States extradite Fethullah Gulen, a cleric living in self-imposed exile in Pennsylvania whom it accuses of being behind the violent July 15 coup attempt that left more than 200 people dead. It is accusing Western nations of not extending sufficient support to its efforts to counter further threats from followers of the Gulen movement, which it says have infiltrated the country's state institutions.

Turkey considers Gulen's movement a terrorist organization. Gulen has denied any prior knowledge of the plot and says his movement espouses interfaith dialogue. The United States has asked Turkey for evidence of his involvement, and said the U.S. extradition process must take its course.

"Instead of thanking this nation that quashed the coup in the name of democracy, on the contrary, you are taking sides with the coup plotters," Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said in an angry speech Friday at a police special forces headquarters in Ankara. The facility was bombed and fired upon during the attempted coup, and 47 police officers were killed.

"The putschist is already in your country," Erdogan said.

The president also lashed out at an American military official who expressed concern that the failed coup may have longer-term effects on the U.S.-led fight against Islamic State militants in Syria and Iraq.

Gen. Joseph Votel said Thursday the unrest could affect U.S. relations with the Turkish military, noting that some of its leaders have been jailed.

"We've certainly had relationships with a lot of Turkish leaders, military leaders in particular. And so I'm concerned about what the impact is on those relationships as we continue to move forward," Votel said at the Aspen Security Forum.

Erdogan criticized the comment.

"It's not up to you to make that decision. Who are you? Know your place," he said, and hinted the United States could be behind the failed plot.

"My people know who is behind this scheme ... they know who the superior intelligence behind it is, and with these statements you are revealing yourselves, you are giving yourselves away," he said.

Speaking later in the evening at an event in Ankara to commemorate the dead and wounded, Erdogan said nobody from the European Union or the Council of Europe had visited Turkey to express their condolences for those killed in the coup.

He noted the West simply offered condolences and then followed up with messages of concern about those suspended or fired.

"You simply send a message of condolence, and you follow it up with nine kinds of advice?" Erdogan said. "Keep that to yourself."

The president insisted a broad crackdown on the Gulen movement was necessary and would continue.

"Some say 'you've dismissed 10,000, 20,000.' We will purge tens of thousands of whomever they are," Erdogan said.

"It is not possible for them to remain in this country's institutions, those who rained bombs purchased with taxes on my pristine people," he added.

Speaking earlier in the day, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said Turkey wanted Gulen's extradition process to conclude rapidly and has asked the United States to make sure he does not escape to another country.

He also criticized Turkey's European and Western allies for their stance on the government's broad crackdown, which has included a purge of the civil service, military, judiciary and education sectors, and the closures of hundreds of schools and dozens of media outlets.

"We are disturbed by our European and Western friends' approach," Cavusoglu told reporters. "Very few have given us clear support against the coup. They started to give us lessons in democracy, to talk down to us, to warn us."

The European Union and other countries, as well as human rights groups, have voiced increasing concern about the crackdown. According to recent figures from the interior ministry, more than 18,000 people have been detained since the coup attempt. Of those, more than 3,500 have since been released, a senior government official said. More than 66,000 people in the wider civil service have been suspended from their jobs.

Ankara has also been seeking to extend its crackdown on the network of schools and institutions abroad connected to his movement.

In Germany, the governor of the state of Baden-Wuerttemberg said his regional government received a letter from the Turkish consul-general in Stuttgart asking it to check and "reevaluate" organizations, facilities and schools "which in the opinion of the Turkish government are, it says, 'controlled' by the Gulen movement."

"That surprised me greatly," Winfried Kretschmann told the German daily Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung. "Of course we will not do that."

Kretschmann said he has seen no evidence to back Turkey's assertion that the Gulen movement was responsible for the coup attempt or that Islamization is taking place at schools in Germany.

Germany's foreign minister said it was good that the coup had been foiled "but now the reactions are getting far out of proportion."

"When tens of thousands of civil servants, teachers and judges are dismissed, thousands of schools and education facilities shut and dozens of journalists arrested without any direct connection with the coup being discernible, we cannot simply stay silent," Frank-Walter Steinmeier was quoted as saying Friday in the Ruhr Nachrichten paper.

Steinmeier said bringing back the death penalty would be "a major step backward" for Turkey.

In his Friday night speech, Erdogan said that "I hear the people chanting about the death penalty and we are a democracy." He said the issue would be discussed by Parliament.

Cavusoglu, in an interview with Germany's Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung to be published Saturday, raised the possibility of a referendum on reinstating capital punishment.

This decision should not be taken "in the heat of the moment," he was quoted as saying. "Perhaps the decision on this will be taken in a referendum. These are very serious questions."

He argued that officials are getting thousands of tweets and texts saying "'if you don't reintroduce the death penalty, we won't vote for your party anymore.'"

"The EU doesn't have the right to give us lessons on this matter," Cavusoglu was quoted as saying.

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Becatoros reported from Istanbul. Cinar Kiper in Istanbul, Lolita Baldor in Washington DC and Geir Moulson in Berlin contributed.