Turkey suspends 21,000 teachers and 900 police officers

Turkish government also blocks WikiLeaks access as it publishes ruling party’s emails

 Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan attends a security council meeting in Ankara, Turkey. Photograph: Turkish presidential press office/EPA

Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan attends a security council meeting in Ankara, Turkey. Photograph: Turkish presidential press office/EPA

 

The Turkish government is expanding its purge of suspected backers of an attempted coup and has begun to revoke the licences of 21,000 teachers at private schools.

The state-run Anadolu news agency said the teachers involved are believed to have ties to US-based cleric Fethullah Gulen, whom the government has accused of being behind the failed military coup last week.

Gulen has strongly denied the accusations.

Turkey has already announced the firing of 15,200 teachers at state institutions, demanded the resignations of 1,577 university deans and halted all foreign assignments for state-employed academics.

In addition, thousands of other state employees, including police officers, have been fired.

Another 900 police officers were suspended in the capital Ankara on Wednesday.

Authorities have rounded up close to 9,000 people - including 115 generals, 350 officers and 4,800 other military personnel - for their alleged involvement in the coup attempt.

However, two of those military officers have fled from a military hospital in Istanbul where they were being treated.

Turkish police are warning the two officers may be armed and have distributed their photos in a bid to recapture them.

Meanwhile, the nation’s National Security Council is holding an emergency meeting following the coup attempt, which was eventually derailed by security forces and protesters loyal to the government.

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is heading the meeting of the council, which is the highest advisory body on security issues.

Mr Erdogan has previously said an “important decision” will be announced after the meeting.

Air strikes

The meeting comes after Turkish jets carried out cross-border strikes against Kurdish rebel targets in northern Iraq, killing 20 alleged militants.

F-16 jets pounded targets belonging to the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or PKK, in Iraq’s Hakurk region, Anadolu said.

The Turkish military has been regularly hitting suspected PKK positions in Iraq since last year, but Wednesday’s strikes were the first since the coup attempt.

The military is reeling from the failed putsch and the air raids appeared to be an attempt to show that Turkey’s forces are on top of security matters.

The coup attempt has led to public anger and calls for the government to reinstate capital punishment, while the state-run religious affairs body said no religious rites would be performed for the coup plotters killed in the uprising.

Capital punishment was abolished in 2004 as part of Turkey’s bid to join the European Union.

Several European officials have said its reinstatement would be the end of Ankara’s attempts to join.

Officials have said the death toll from the violence surrounding the coup attempt included 240 government supporters and at least 24 coup plotters.

WikiLeaks

Turkey has also blocked access to the WikiLeaks website, its telecoms watchdog said on Wednesday, hours after it leaked thousands of ruling party emails.

WikiLeaks on Tuesday released nearly 300,000 emails from the AK Party dating from 2010 to July 6th this year.

Obtained before the attempted coup, the date of their publication was brought forward “in response to the government‘s post-coup purges”, WikiLeaks said on its website.

The source of the emails was not connected to the coup plotters or to a rival political party or state, WikiLeaks said.

Founded by Julian Assange, WikiLeaks publishes leaked material, mostly from governments.

In 2010, the organisation published classified US military and diplomatic documents in one of the largest information leaks in US history.

Turkey’s Telecommunications Communications Board said on Wednesday that an “administrative measure” had been taken against the website - the term it commonly uses when blocking access to sites.

Turkey routinely uses internet shutdowns in response to political events, which critics and human rights advocates see as part of a broader attack on the media and freedom of expression.

PA and Reuters