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Turkey holds thousands in relentless post-coup crackdown

19 July 2016

Turkish security forces launched fresh raids on Monday in a relentless crackdown against the suspected plotters of a coup that left over 290 dead, as President Recep Tayyip Erdogan mooted reintroducing the death penalty to punish them.

Erdogan faced down the coup bid late Friday by elements in the military disgruntled with his 13-year rule. But Turkey's allies have warned him against excessive retribution as the authorities round up the perpetrators (See: EU, Germany warn Turkey against reintroducing death penalty).

The justice minister has said around 6,000 people have been detained so far in the investigation into Friday's coup which Erdogan has blamed on his arch-enemy, US-based preacher Fethullah Gulen.

Early Monday, special Istanbul anti-terror police units raided the prestigious air force military academy in the city in search of new suspects, the state-run Anadolu news agency reported.

Meanwhile, authorities have also detained General Mehmet Disli, who conducted the operation to capture Turkey's chief-of-staff Hulusi Akar during the stand-off, an official said.

Reports had said that a total of 36 generals had been detained so far. The Dogan agency reported on Monday that 10 of them had now been remanded in custody by the courts.

Erdogan has urged citizens to remain on the streets even after the defeat of the coup, in what the authorities describe as a "vigil" for democracy.

New demonstrations of support were held throughout the country on Sunday night, AFP correspondents said.

Thousands of pro-Erdogan supporters waving Turkish flags filled the main Kizilay Square in Ankara while similar scenes were seen in Taksim Square in Istanbul, AFP photographers said.

According to Anadolu, 1,800 additional elite special police forces have been drafted in from surrounding provinces to ensure security in Istanbul.

Eleven soldiers suspected of involvement in the coup were detained Sunday at Istanbul's Sabiha Gokcen airport, with authorities firing warning shots in the air, a Turkish official said.

Clashes also erupted at an air base in the central city of Konya between security forces and putschists trying to evade arrest.

Obama warning
Leaders including US President Barack Obama and German Chancellor Angela Merkel have urged Turkey to follow the rule of law in the wake of the coup., while French foreign minister Jean-Marc Ayrault warned Erdogan against using the failed putsch as a "blank cheque" to silence his opponents.

But Erdogan added fuel to the fire late on Sunday when he told supporters that Turkey could consider re-introducing the death penalty, which it had abolished as part of its longstanding EU membership bid.

"In democracies, decisions are made based on what the people say. I think our government will speak with the opposition and come to a decision," he said, reacting to crowds in Istanbul calling for the death penalty.

"We cannot delay this anymore because in this country, those who launch a coup will have to pay the price for it," he told supporters.

There has also been concern about the nature of the arrests which have appeared aimed at humiliating the suspects in the media.

Turkish television has shown images of captured suspects forced to lie face down on the tarmac after their arrest while AFP photographers have seen suspects roughly led away, pursued by angry mobs.

Anadolu published pictures of the arrest of former air force commander Akin Ozturk bent forwards, facing a wall with hands tied behind his back.

Markets hit
The turbulence has raised concern about the stability of Turkey, a key NATO member, which is also part of the international coalition against ISIS jihadists in Syria.

It has also hit financial markets, with the lira at one point losing five per cent in value against the dollar although it rallied slightly on Monday.

Erdogan has long accused US-based Turkish preacher Muhammed Fethullah Gulen of running a "parallel state" in Turkey, and called on Obama to extradite the reclusive preacher from the United States to face justice.

"We will continue to clean the virus from all state bodies because this virus has spread. Unfortunately like a cancer, this virus has enveloped the state," Erdogan said on Sunday.

The 75-year-old preacher has categorically denied any involvement in the plot and suggested it could have been staged by Erdogan himself.

Erdogan had on Friday broken down in tears while speaking at the funeral of Erol Olcak, a friend and aide described as his key image-maker, who was killed in the coup.

More than 290 people were killed during the coup bid, the foreign ministry said late Sunday, raising the toll from an earlier figure of 265 dead.

It said 190 citizens and regular troops were killed and more than 1,400 wounded, it said. Over 100 plotters were also killed, it added.

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