337 military officers and others have been given life sentences by a court in Turkey, in one of the biggest trials linked to the 2016 coup attempt.
Air force pilots and army commanders were among the nearly 500 defendants accused of trying to overthrow President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
They allegedly directed the plot from the Akinci air base near Ankara.
President Erdogan says US-based Muslim cleric Fethullah Gulen masterminded the plot, which led to mass arrests.
Fethullah Gulen has denied any involvement in the attempted coup in July 2016 that killed 251 people and injured more than 2,000. Presidnet Erdogan was on vacation at the time at a resort.
Thousands of civilians rallied in support of Recep Tayyip Erdogan in a night of turmoil, confronting rogue soldiers and preventing the plotters from seizing power.
The trial began in August 2017, and the charges included seeking to kill President Erdogan and seize key state institutions. Turkey’s biggest court – in Sincan near Ankara – was packed for the verdicts.
Officers who conspired against President Erdogan seized aircraft at the Akinci base, taking then chief of staff Gen Hulusi Akar and some other officers hostage.
Former air force commander Akin Ozturk was jailed for life last year for his role in the plot.
The indictment states that 25 pilots in F-16s bombed targets in Ankara, including parliament, which was hit three times, as well as key security buildings. The bombing killed 68 people in Ankara and injured more than 200.
Twenty-five of those in the dock were generals and 10 were civilians.
More than 10 of the military officers – including F-16 fighter pilots – and four civilians got 79 “aggravated” life sentences each. The “aggravated” sentence requires harsher prison terms than for a normal life sentence.
Six were put on trial in absentia, including Fethullah Gulen and Adil Oksuz, a theology lecturer accused of being a key coordinator in the coup plot.
Among those receiving “aggravated” life terms was businessman Kemal Batmaz, accused of assisting Adil Oksuz.
The Hizmet movement led by Fethullah Gulen has been branded a “terrorist” organization by Recep Tayyip Erdogan. He was once an ally of the president, but since the coup attempt the 79-year-old cleric has remained a fugitive in Pennsylvania and Turkey wants his extradition.
President Erdogan carried out a sweeping purge of state institutions after the plot, sacking or suspending more than 100,000 public sector employees, including teachers and judges, who were accused of links to Fethullah Gulen.
There have been many trials of alleged plotters and courts have issued more than 2,500 life sentences.
Syrian government forces, supported by Russia, have been trying to retake
Idlib from jihadist groups and Turkish-backed rebel factions.
Turkey is hosting 3.7 million Syrian refugees, as well as migrants from
other countries such as Afghanistan – but had previously stopped them from
leaving for Europe under an aid-linked deal with the EU.
President Erdogan accused the EU of breaking promises.
He said in Istanbul on February 29: “We
said months ago that if it goes on like this, we will have to open the doors.
They did not believe us, but we opened the doors yesterday.”
The president said that some 18,000 refugees had “pressed on the gates
and crossed” into Europe by February 29. He did not provide evidence of
“We will not close these doors in
the coming period and this will continue. Why? The European Union needs to keep
its promises. We don’t have to take care of this many refugees, to feed
them,” Recep Tayyip Erdogan added.
He also said that the EU had not given full financial aid agreed in the 2018
Turkey-EU refugee deal.
Greece announced that it had averted more than 4,000 attempts to cross into
the country. There were further clashes between migrants and Greek police on
Greek government spokesman Stelios Petsas told reporters: “The government will do whatever it
takes to protect its borders.”
President Erdogan also said that he had asked Russian President Vladimir
Putin – a close ally of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad – to stand aside and
let Turkey “do what is necessary” with the Syrian government by
Turkey and Russia are backing opposing sides in the civil war. Turkey is opposed to the government of Bashar al-Assad and supports some rebel groups.
President Donald Trump and his French
counterpart, Emmanuel Macron, have set out opposing views ahead of a NATO
summit in London.
In an occasionally tense press conference, Donald Trump and Emmanuel Macron
sparred over NATO’s role, Turkey, and ISIS.
President Trump had described Emmanuel Macron’s comments about NATO as
“nasty”, but the French president said he stood by his words.
World leaders gathered in London to mark the Western military alliance’s
The NATO summit has already been marked by strained relations between Turkey
and other member states.
Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has said he will oppose NATO’s plan
for the defense of the Baltic region if it does not back Turkey over its fight
against Kurdish groups it considers terrorists.
On December 3, Emmanuel Macron and Recep Tayyip Erdogan met in Downing
Street in a four-way meeting that also included German Chancellor Angela Merkel
and the host, UK PM Boris Johnson.
Ties between President Trump and Emmanuel Macron were already strained amid
a trade dispute, and after the French president described NATO as “brain
dead” last month because, he said, the US commitment to the alliance was
On December 3, President Trump hit back by saying Emmanuel Macron had been
“very disrespectful”, adding that France had “a very high
unemployment rate” and “nobody needs NATO more than France”.
At a joint press conference with Emmanuel Macron later, President Trump was
less combative, stressing that the two countries had “done a lot of good
things together”. Emmanuel Macron, meanwhile, said he stood by his
The two sides then clashed over foreign ISIS fighters who were captured in
President Trump jokingly offered them to France, saying: “Would you like some nice [ISIS] fighters? You can take everyone
Sounding stern, Emmanuel Macron said “Let’s be serious” and that
ISIS fighters from Europe were “a tiny minority”, and that the
“number one priority” was to get rid of the terrorist group.
President Trump then retorted: “This
is why he is a great politician because that was one of the greater non-answers
I have ever heard, and that’s OK.”
He also criticized NATO countries who were paying less than the NATO
guidelines of at least 2% of GDP towards the alliance.
President Trump said he did not want countries to be “delinquent” and pay less than their share, adding: “Maybe I’ll deal with them from a trade standpoint.”
Emmanuel Macron said France – which currently spends 1.84% of its GDP on
defense – would reach the minimum, and acknowledged that the US had
“overinvested” in NATO for several decades.
However, he added that there were other pressing issues to discuss.
The two leaders also discussed Turkey’s decision to buy a Russian S-400
President Trump said they were “looking at” whether to impose
sanctions, while Emmanuel Macron asked: “How
is it possible to be a member of the alliance… and buy things from
The Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) have been key allies of the
US-led coalition against ISIS in Syria. However, Turkey views a section of the
group – the YPG – as terrorists.
Ahead of his departure for London, Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Turkey would not approve a plan to defend Poland, Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia in the event of a Russian attack unless NATO recognized the Kurdish YPG militia as terrorists.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan showed
Republican senators an anti-Kurdish video during his visit at the White House.
On November 13, President Erdogan played the video on an iPad during a White
House meeting with President Donald Trump and the lawmakers who vocally back
President Trump mostly observed the interaction, sources told media.
He has been widely criticized in the US for his decision to withdraw troops
from Syria’s border region.
The Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) – which are supported by the
US – played a leading role in the fight against ISIS militants.
The senators involved in the White House meeting were Ted Cruz, Rick Scott, Lindsey
Graham, Jim Risch, and Joni Ernst.
All five have sharply criticized President Erdogan’s October move against
Kurdish forces in Syria following President Trump’s announcement to pull US
Turkey regards the Kurdish fighters as terrorists and is seeking to turn the
area into a “safe zone” for resettling the Syrian refugees currently
President Erdogan reportedly believed he might change the senators’ views on
the Kurds by showing them the short film, but instead received pushback from
the entire group.
After viewing the film, Lindsey Graham asked Presidnet Erdogan if he wanted
him “to go get the Kurds to make one about what you’ve done”,
prompting a heated discussion, a source present during the meeting told the Axios news website, which first reported
On November 5, Turkish officials said the arrest of Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi’s
sister Rasmiya Awad would yield valuable intelligence about ISIS.
The arrest was reportedly made on November 4 in an area of Aleppo province
now under Turkey’s control.
Rasmiya Awad was found in a trailer, where she was living with her husband,
daughter-in-law and five children, a Turkish official told AP news agency,
adding she was being interrogated on suspicion of involvement with an extremist
Experts say the town where Rasmiya Awad was captured is a known smuggling
route for ISIS families.
President Trump announced Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi’s death at a press conference
at the White House on October 27.
The president said DNA tests had been carried out to verify Baghdadi’s
identity, confirming his death.
After the raid, the compound was destroyed in an air strike.
Abu Ibrahim al-Hashemi al-Qurashi has since been named as ISIS’ new leader and “caliph”.
At a recent event, President Recep Tayyip
Erdogan said that Turkey will “crush the heads” of Kurdish fighters
if they do not withdraw from a planned safe zone area in northern Syria.
On October 17, Turkey agreed to suspend an offensive for five days to allow
the Kurds to retreat from the area.
However, on October 19, both sides accused the other of violating the
Turkey views the Kurdish forces as terrorists and wants to create a
“safe zone” buffer inside Syria.
Despite the temporary ceasefire, some sporadic violence has continued –
particularly around the border town of Ras Al-Ain.
Speaking at an event in the central
Turkish province of Kayseri on October 19, President Erdogan said that if
Kurdish fighters did not withdraw by October 22 in the evening – as agreed in
the ceasefire – “we will start where we left off and continue to crush the
Recep Tayyip Erdogan is due to hold
talks next week with Russian President Vladimir Putin.
On October 19, he said that if those
talks did not produce a solution, Turkey would “implement its own
Turkey’s defense ministry earlier
accused Kurdish forces of carrying out 14 “provocative” attacks in
the last 36 hours, mostly in Ras Al-Ain, but insisted Turkish forces were fully
abiding by the agreement.
But the Kurdish-led Syrian
Democratic Forces (SDF) accused Turkey of violating the ceasefire.
They also accuse Turkish troops of failing to create a safe corridor for the
evacuation of civilians and wounded people from the besieged town.
On October 19, the SDF urged US VP Mike Pence, who helped to broker the
temporary ceasefire, to pressure Turkey to allow the passage of civilians.
The SDF said in a statement: “Despite the constant communication with the American side and the promise made by them to solve this problem, there has not been any tangible progress in this regard.”
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s ruling
AK Party has lost control of Istanbul after a re-run of the city’s mayoral
With nearly all ballots counted, main opposition party candidate Ekrem
Imamoglu, 49, had a lead of 775,000 votes, a huge increase on the margin of
13,000 he achieved in the earlier election.
The March victory was annulled after the AKP alleged irregularities.
The result ends 25 years of AKP rule in Istanbul.
The AKP’s candidate, former PM Binali Yildirim, conceded to his opponent.
President Erdogan tweeted: “I
congratulate Ekrem Imamoglu who has won the election based on preliminary
The president had previously said that “whoever wins Istanbul, wins
Turkey”. He has ruled the country since 2003 both as prime minister and
now president, becoming the most powerful leader since Mustafa Kemal Atatürk,
the founder of the modern Turkish republic.
In his victory speech, Ekrem Imamoglu, of the Republican People’s Party
(CHP), said the result marked a “new beginning” for both Istanbul and
Turkey. He said his supporters had “fixed democracy”.
“We are opening up a new page in
Istanbul,” he added.
“On this new page, there will be
justice, equality, love.”
Ekrem Imamoglu added that he was willing to work with President Erdogan,
saying: “Mr. President, I am ready
to work in harmony with you.”
With 99% of votes counted, Ekrem Imamoglu had 54% of the vote and Binali
Ekrem Imamoglu is the mayor of Istanbul’s Beylikduzu
district but his name was barely known before he ran in the March election.
Binali Yildirim was a founding
member of Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s AKP and was prime minister from 2016 until
2018, when Turkey became a presidential democracy and the role ceased to exist.
He was elected Speaker of the new
parliament in February and before that served as minister of transportation and
Ekrem Imamoglu’s victory of 13,000
votes in March was not enough for Binali Yildirim to accept defeat.
The AK Party alleged that votes were
stolen and many ballot box observers did not have official approval, leading
the election board to demand a re-run of the vote.
Critics argue that pressure from
President Erdogan was behind the decision.
Istanbul is Turkey’s largest city,
with a population of 15 million, not far short of a fifth of the country’s 80
million, and is also the nation’s business hub.
Local currency, the lira, down 10%
this year, rose on news of the result.
Istanbul is also close to President
Erdogan’s heart – his political career rose there as his AKP took power in the
city a quarter of a century ago and he himself served as mayor from 1994 to
The city accounts for just short of
a third of Turkey’s GDP. It has a $4 billion municipal budget which spawns
lucrative contacts. The AKP has now lost control of it.
Part of Ekrem Imamoglu’s campaign
was to allege the squandering of public money by the AKP.
Although less conservative as a
whole than the AKP’s rural heartland, Istanbul still has conservative districts
such as Fatih, but Ekrem Imamoglu also won there and in President Erdogan’s own
childhood district of Beyoglu.
Turkey’s capital, Ankara, Istanbul and Izmir are all now in opposition hands.
Turkey has been threatened with sanctions by
the EU if it continues “illegal drilling” in waters near Cyprus in
the eastern Mediterranean.
The warning came at an EU summit in Brussels.
EU Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker called Turkey’s actions
On June 20, Turkey launched the Yavuz, a second drilling ship for natural
gas and oil prospecting off Cyprus.
The Republic of Cyprus is an EU member, but the breakaway north is
The European Council called on Turkey to “show restraint, respect the
sovereign rights of Cyprus and refrain from any such actions”.
The statement said: “The European
Council endorses the invitation to the [EU] Commission and the EEAS [EU foreign
affairs service] to submit options for appropriate measures without delay,
including targeted measures.”
The self-declared Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus is recognized only by
Turkey, and is internationally isolated.
Turkey said it was drilling inside
its continental shelf, complying with international law.
A Turkish drilling ship, the Fatih,
had been anchored west of Cyprus since early May and had begun drilling, the
Turkey is a candidate for EU
membership but its negotiations are currently frozen. The EU Commission has
said President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s government has backtracked on pledges to
improve justice and the rule of law. The Turkish government has purged state
institutions since an abortive coup attempt against Recep Tayyip Erdogan in
Greek PM Alexis Tsipras said the
threatened EU measures “are against companies and individuals, a possible
EU accession process freeze and measures with significant economic
He said at Brussels summit: “These will take place unless Turkey
stops its illegal operations inside the Exclusive Economic Zone of Cyprus.”
Turkey – a key NATO partner for the
West – has extensive trade ties with the EU and has not yet been hit with EU
sanctions, unlike Russia.
The US has also threatened Turkey with sanctions if President Erdogan goes ahead with a deal to buy S-400 air defense missiles from Russia.
Commenting on the results in a
speech on March 31, President Erdogan looked ahead to national elections in
2023: “We have a long period ahead
where we will carry out economic reforms without compromising on the rules of
the free-market economy.
“If there are any shortcomings, it is our duty to
More than 57 million voters were
registered to vote for mayors and councilors. Turnout was high at just under
According to officials, the
opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) candidate Mansur Yavas won in Ankara.
With almost all votes counted, he was on nearly 51% and the AKP’s Mehmet
Ozhaseki had won the support of just over 47%.
Both CHP and the AKP claim victory
in Istanbul, which has been in the hands of parties linked to President Erdogan
since 1994, when he was elected the city’s mayor.
The election commission said the
CHP’s Ekrem Imamoglu was leading there by less than 0.5%, but that the results
of more than 80 ballot boxes were being challenged. Results carried by Anadolu news
agency put the margin even narrower, at less than 0.25%.
The AKP had been saying its candidate, former PM Binali Yildirim, was ahead
by 4,000 votes. He later conceded his opponent had a narrow lead, only for the
AKP to again claim victory.
The third largest city, Izmir, went to the CHP.
This was the first municipal vote since Recep Tayyip Erdogan assumed
sweeping executive powers through last year’s presidential election.
The AKP, with its roots in political Islam, has won every election since
coming to power in 2002.
President Erdogan, whose two-month campaign included 100 rallies, said the
poll was about the “survival” of the country and his party.
With most media either pro-government or controlled by President Erdogan’s
supporters, critics believe opposition parties campaigned at a disadvantage.
Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s rallies dominated TV coverage.
The opposition pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) said the
elections were unfair and refused to put forward candidates in several cities.
Some of the HDP’s leaders have been jailed on terrorism charges, accusations they reject.
Rental and sale agreements in Turkey are often offered in euros and dollars to foreigners living in the country.
However, the property and construction market has become a concern for investors worried that Turkish companies that borrowed heavily to profit from a boom may struggle to repay loans in foreign currencies, as the weakened lira means there is now more to pay back.
In a speech to a traders’ confederation in the capital, Ankara, President Erdogan said on September 13 that nobody should carry out business in foreign currency apart from exporters and importers.
The president also criticized Turkey’s central bank, accusing it of failing to control inflation and urging it to cut interest rates just hours ahead of its announcement that it was raising rates to 24%.
He said: “As of today I have not seen the central bank fix inflation rates as they promised.”
“Interest rates are the cause, inflation is the result. If you say ‘inflation is cause, the rate is the result’, you do not know this business, friend,” the president added.
Turkey’s lira jumped sharply following news of the rate increase.
Last month, Turkey’s weak currency received a small boost after President Erdogan raised tariffs on US imports including cars, alcohol and tobacco.
The US earlier hit Turkey with tariffs on items such as steel and aluminum in an effort to increase pressure on the country to free the detained American pastor Andrew Brunson.
Andrew Brunson has been held for almost two years because of his alleged links to political groups that are outlawed in Turkey, which accuses the US of trying to bring it “to its knees” over the administration’s demands.
The fall in the value of the lira in recent months has pushed up the price of everyday items in Turkey and raised fears the country is sliding into an economic crisis.
Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has announced his country will boycott US electronic products, after Washington imposed punitive sanctions on Ankara.
President Erdogan said, referring to Apple and its South Korean competitor: “If [the US] has the iPhone, there’s Samsung on the other side.”
Last week, the US doubled tariffs over Turkey’s refusal to extradite US pastor Andrew Brunson who is imprisoned there.
Turkey’s weakened currency, the lira, plunged by a full 20% in response.
President Erdogan said his country was taking measures to stabilize the economy, and should not “give in to the enemy” by investing in foreign currencies.
At a news conference on August 14, Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, who is visiting Ankara, branded the US sanctions an illegitimate policy. He accused the US of seeking an unfair competitive advantage in global trade.
Since January, the Turkish lira has lost more than 34% of its value against the dollar, pushing up the price of everyday items.
President Donald Trump tweeted: “I have just authorized a doubling of Tariffs on Steel and Aluminum with respect to Turkey as their currency, the Turkish Lira, slides rapidly downward against our very strong Dollar! Aluminum will now be 20% and Steel 50%. Our relations with Turkey are not good at this time!”
President Erdogan has presided over soaring inflation and borrowing levels, but insists the lira’s plight is the result of a “campaign” led by foreign powers.
In a TV address last week, President Erdogan called on Turkish citizens to exchange foreign currency and gold for lira, calling it an “economic war”.
Now it appears there may be a small respite for the flailing currency, which has gained slightly in value after days of dramatic falls.
Turkey’s central bank has promised to provide banks with liquidity. The finance minister – who is also President Erdogan’s son-in-law – will seek to reassure around 1,000 international investors in a teleconference scheduled for August 16.
President Erdogan has accused the US of trying to “bring Turkey to its knees through threats over a pastor”.
However, the US insists Andrew Brunson, a long-time Turkish resident who ran the tiny Izmir Resurrection Church, is “a victim of unfair and unjust detention”.
An evangelical from North Carolina, Andrew Brunson has been held in Turkey for nearly two years over alleged links to the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party and the Gulenist movement, which Turkey blames for a failed coup in 2016.
White House press secretary Sarah Sanders said the US had seen “no evidence that Pastor Brunson has done anything wrong”.
Andrew Brunson has denied charges of espionage, but faces up to 35 years in jail if found guilty.
The ruckus between Turkey and the US has impacted on other countries’ currencies, including the Indian rupee, as investors fear the lira’s wobbles could spread to developing nations.
On August 14, India’s government urged people not to panic on Tuesday after the rupee slid to an all-time low against the dollar.
Brazil Russia, Argentina, South Africa and Mexico have also seen their currencies fall over the last week.
Muharrem Ince, whose fiery campaigning has revitalized Turkey’s demoralized opposition, promised to push back what he characterized as a slide into authoritarian rule under Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
He told at least a million people gathered in Istanbul: “If Erdogan wins, your phones will continue to be listened to… Fear will continue to reign. If Ince wins, the courts will be independent.”
Muharrem Ince also said that if elected, he would lift Turkey’s state of emergency within 48 hours. Emergency rule allows the government to bypass parliament.
At his own rally, Recep Tayyip Erdogan – who was prime minister for 11 years before becoming president in 2014 – used a violent metaphor to summarize his hoped-for result, asking supporters: “Are we going to give them an Ottoman slap [a technique for knocking someone out] tomorrow?”
The incumbent president accused his rival – a former teacher and lawmaker of 16 years – of lacking the skills to lead.
“It’s one thing to be a physics teacher, it’s another thing to run a country,” President Erdogan said.
“Being president needs experience.”
President Erdogan told supporters he planned to push through more major infrastructure projects to boost the economy.
Around 60 million Turks are eligible to take part in today’s vote.
Six candidates are vying for the presidency, and if one of them wins more than 50% of the vote they will be elected outright.
If nobody hits that threshold, the top two will face off in a second-round vote on July 8.
Recep Tayyip Erdogan will be hoping to win decisively, as a run-off vote could end in defeat or narrow his margin of victory.
In the parliamentary election, President Erdogan’s AK Party (AKP) will face a tough battle to keep its majority in the 600-seat assembly.
Of the 280 ex-military people on trial, the court in Izmir also served lesser sentences to a further 52 defendants.
The Izmir court gave 21 people 20 years in prison for “assisting the assassination of the president”, while 31 others were sentenced to between seven and 11 years for “membership of a terrorist organization”, state news agency Anadolu reported.
President Erdogan had backed reintroducing the death penalty for coup plotters. He also said they should wear Guantanamo Bay-style uniforms. Turkey abolished the death penalty in 2004.
The Turkish authorities accused a movement loyal to the Muslim cleric, Fethullah Gulen, of organizing the 2016 plot.
Fethullah Gulen, who has been in self-imposed exile in the US since 1999, denies any involvement, and Washington has so far resisted calls from the Turkish authorities to extradite him.
Rebel soldiers had attempted to overthrow the government overnight and plotters tried to detain Recep Tayyip Erdogan as he holidayed in an Aegean resort.
However, he had left 15 minutes before and the coup was thwarted by civilians and soldiers loyal to the president.
A purge followed the coup, in which thousands of public employees from police officers to teachers were sacked or arrested under suspicion of stirring up dissent.
Recep tayyip Erdogan’s critics say he is using the purge to stifle political dissent.
In its statement on October 8, the Turkish embassy in Washington said: “Recent events have forced the Turkish government to reassess the commitment of the government of the US to the security of the Turkish mission facilities and personnel.
“In order to minimize the number of the visitors to our diplomatic and consular missions in the US while this assessment proceeds, effective immediately we have suspended all visa services regarding the US citizens at our diplomatic and consular missions in the US.
“This measure will apply to sticker visas as well as e-visas and border visas.”
The Turkish’s embassy statement is virtually the same as the earlier American one, with only country names being replaced.
The American mission said that “all non-immigrant visa services at all US diplomatic facilities in Turkey” had been suspended.
Non-immigrant visas are issued to those travelling to the US for tourism, medical treatment, business, temporary work or study.
Those seeking citizenship or permanent residency apply for US immigrant visas.
Turkey has for months been pressing the US to extradite Fethullah Gulen over his alleged role in the coup attempt in July 2016.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan accuses Fethullah Gulen of instigating the unrest – a charge the cleric denies.
In the aftermath of the coup attempt, which was led by military officers, 40,000 people were arrested and 120,000 sacked or suspended.
In a speech in the eastern town of Malatya, President Erdogan said: “There will be no more coming into court wearing whatever they want.”
On the July 15th anniversary of the coup attempt, the Turkish president demanded a prisoner uniform “like in Guantanamo”. The US prison for alleged jihadists makes inmates wear bright orange jumpsuits.
Recep Tayyip Erdogan says Turkey must root out all the “Gulenists” blamed for the coup plot in which at least 260 people died. Rogue officers tried to topple him and bombed parliament in a night of bloodshed.
The president said defendants were “lying all the time” in court.
More than 50,000 people have been detained and 150,000 public servants suspended from work in a post-coup purge.
There has been strong international criticism of the sweeping crackdown, enacted under a state of emergency.
Turkey Suspected Coup Plotters to Wear Brown Uniforms, Says President Erdogan
Kicking off a series of events that will extend into dawn today, PM Binali Yildirim told a special session of parliament that July 15, 2016, was a “second War of Independence”, following the conflict that led to the creation of the modern state in the 1920s.
Image source Wikimedia
“It has been exactly one year since Turkey’s darkest and longest night was transformed into a bright day, since an enemy occupation turned into the people’s legend,” Binali Yildirim said.
However, head of the main opposition Republican People’s Party Kemal Kilicdaroglu condemned the government’s actions since the coup.
He said: “This parliament, which withstood bombs, has been rendered obsolete and its authority removed. In the past year, justice has been destroyed. Instead of rapid normalization, a permanent state of emergency has been implemented.”
Recep Tayyip Erdogan flew from the parliamentary session to Istanbul, in a plane accompanied by air force jets.
The president will join the huge crowds on the bridge over the Bosphorus where civilians had confronted pro-coup soldiers last year. It has been renamed the Bridge of the Martyrs of July 15 and the president will unveil a “martyrs’ memorial” there.
Istanbul is awash with giant anniversary billboards, with anti-coup slogans strung between the minarets of mosques.
President Erdogan will later return to Ankara to address parliament at midnight, the exact time last year it was attacked by coup plotters.
He will unveil a monument to the coup’s victims at his palace in the capital at dawn.
On July 15, 2016, the coup plotters, armed with tanks, warplanes and helicopters, declared that they had taken over on state media, and bombed parliament and other key locations.
The Turkish authorities accused a movement loyal to the Muslim cleric, Fethullah Gulen, of organizing the plot.
Fethullah Gulen, who remains in the United States, denies any involvement.
Washington has so far resisted calls from the Turkish authorities to extradite him.
Critics say President Erdogan is using the purges to stifle political dissent, and last week hundreds of thousands of people gathered in Istanbul at the end of a 450km (280-mile) “justice” march against the government.
Recep Tayyip Erdogan accused the marchers of supporting terrorism.
On July 14, the government continued its dismissal of state employees, sacking another 7,395 for alleged links to what it calls terrorist groups.
Turkish authorities have blocked all access inside the country to Wikipedia.
According to officials, “an administrative measure” had been taken, but gave no reason why.
Turkish media said authorities had asked the online encyclopedia to remove content by writers “supporting terror”.
Turkey used to block social media sites, including Facebook and Twitter, for a period of time, usually following protests or terror attacks.
The Turkey Blocks monitoring group said Wikipedia was unreachable from 08:00 local time. People in Istanbul were unable to access any pages without using a Virtual Private Network (VPN).
Image source Wikimedia
Turkey’s Information and Communication Technologies Authority was quoted as saying: “After technical analysis and legal consideration based on the Law Nr. 5651 [governing the internet], an administrative measure has been taken for this website.”
It gave no further details.
However, the Hurriyet newspaper said Wikipedia had been asked to remove content by certain writers whom the authorities accuse of “supporting terror” and of linking Turkey to terror groups. Wikipedia had not responded to the demands, Hurriyet said, and the ban was imposed as a result.
Turkey Blocks and Turkish media, including Hurriyet, said the provisional order would need to be backed by a full court ruling in the next few days.
Social media was in uproar as news of the ban emerged, with some users speculating that it might be a bid to suppress criticism on President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s Wikipedia page.
President Erdogan narrowly won a controversial April 16 referendum on increasing his powers, but the issue has deeply divided Turkey.
One Twitter user noted that the Wikipedia page on Turkey’s referendum has a section on “controversies and electoral misconduct”, and cites claims that the government suppressed the No campaign through “arrests, control of the media and political suppression”.
The Turkish government has previously denied censoring the internet, blaming outages on spikes in usage after major events.
Wikipedia has also faced censorship in other countries, including a temporary ban in Russia, and repeated crackdowns in China.
Recep Tayyip Erdogan has rejected criticism from international monitors who said he had been favored by an “unequal campaign”.
Turkey’s main opposition party is launching an appeal to invalidate the result.
Image source Al Manar
The constitutional changes – due to be introduced before presidential and parliamentary elections in November 2019 – will turn Turkey into a presidential republic similar to the US and France. This could enable President Recep Tayyip Erdogan to stay in power until 2029.
Erdogan’s narrow victory was ruled valid by Turkey’s electoral body, despite claims of irregularities by the opposition.
On April 17, Turkey extended the state of emergency for three months. The measure, introduced after a failed coup in July 2016, was set to expire in two days.
Syria is one of the issues straining relations between Washington and Ankara.
Turkey is irked by the policy started by the Obama administration of supporting Kurdish fighters in Syria who are fighting ISIS.
Turkey views the Syrian Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) as a terror group linked to Kurdish separatists waging an insurgency inside the country since 1984.
Turkey – a key NATO ally – has established closer co-operation with Russia recently.
The two sides are also at loggerheads over Fethullah Gulen. Turkey accuses the Pennsylvania-based cleric of orchestrating the failed coup and wants him extradited.
Officially Washington insists any decision on returning Fethullah Gulen to Turkey from the US remains a judicial rather than a political one.
President Trump’s comments contrasted with a statement by the US state department which mentioned concerns by international observers and urged Turkey to respect the rights of its citizens – chiming with sentiment in European capitals.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel warned that the “tight referendum result shows how deeply divided Turkish society is and that means a big responsibility for the Turkish leadership and for President Erdogan personally”.
And the European Commission issued a similar call.
Opposition supporters took to the streets of Istanbul to bang pots and pans – a traditional form of protest – in a series of noisy demonstrations.
Meanwhile, flag-waving supporters of President Erdogan celebrated as their leader praised them for their “historic decision” that could keep him in office until 2029.
Image source Wikipedia
With 99.97% of ballots counted, the Yes campaign had won 51.41% of the votes cast, while No had taken 48.59%. Turnout was said to be as high as 85%.
Separately, three people were shot dead near a polling station in the south-eastern province of Diyarbakir, reportedly during a dispute over how they were voting.
Responding to the referendum’s result, the European Commission issued a statement urging President Erdogan to respect the closeness of the vote and to “seek the broadest possible national consensus” when considering the far-reaching implications of the constitutional amendments.
Recep Tayyip Erdogan told reporters at his official Istanbul residence, the Huber Palace: “Today… Turkey has taken a historic decision.
“With the people, we have realized the most important reform in our history.”
He called on everyone to respect the outcome of the vote.
President Erdogan also said Turkey could hold a referendum on bringing back the death penalty – a move that would end the country’s EU negotiations.
Turkey Referendum Result: Recep Tayyip Erdogan Wins Vote to Expand His Powers
Turkish voters are going to polls in a landmark referendum that will determine whether President Recep Tayyip Erdogan will be granted sweeping new powers.
Recep Tayyip Erdogan is seeking to replace Turkey’s parliamentary system with an executive presidency.
His supporters say the move would streamline and modernize Turkey, but opponents fear it could lead to greater authoritarianism.
A “yes” vote could also see Recep Tayyip Erdogan remain in office until 2029.
On April 15, Turkish politicians made their final appeals to voters preparing to cast their ballots on one of the most sweeping programs of constitutional change since Turkey became a republic almost a century ago.
Some 55 million people are eligible to vote across 167,000 polling stations, with the results expected to be announced late in the evening.
If the referendum vote falls in Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s favor, it would give him vastly enhanced powers to appoint cabinet ministers, issue decrees, choose senior judges and dissolve parliament.
Recep Tayyip Erdogan said the changes were needed to address the security challenges faced by Turkey, and to avoid the fragile coalition governments of the past.
Image source Wikipedia
Speaking at one of his final rallies in Istanbul’s Tuzla district, Recep Tayyip Erdogan told supporters that the new constitution would “bring stability and trust that is needed for our country to develop and grow”.
“Turkey can leap into the future,” he said.
Recep Tayyip Erdogan assumed the presidency, a largely ceremonial position, in 2014 after more than a decade as prime minister.
The referendum on constitutional change would abolish the post of prime minister altogether, allowing the president to bring all state bureaucracy under his control.
The president says the new system will resemble those in France and the US and will bring calm in a time of turmoil marked by a Kurdish insurgency, Islamist militancy and conflict in neighboring Syria that has led to a huge refugee influx.
The campaign, which has polarized Turkey, takes place under a state of emergency which was imposed following a failed coup last July. A government crackdown since then has seen tens of thousands of people arrested.
Opponents and critics of the proposed changes fear the move would make the president’s position too powerful, arguing that it would amount to one-man rule, without the checks and balances of other presidential systems.
They say his ability to retain ties to a political party – Recep Tayyip Erdogan could resume leadership of the AK Party (AKP) he co-founded – would end any chance of impartiality.
Kemal Kilicdaroglu, leader of the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP), told a rally in Ankara that a “yes” vote would endanger the country.
“We will put 80 million people on to a bus… we don’t know where it is headed. We are putting 80 million on a bus with no brakes,” he said.
The referendum has a simple “yes” or “no” choice on whether to endorse parliament’s approval of a new draft constitution.
The draft states that the next presidential and parliamentary elections will be held on November 3, 2019, and the president would have a five-year tenure, for a maximum of two terms.
On March 13, the Dutch foreign ministry issued a new travel warning, urging its citizens in Turkey to take care and noting the new “diplomatic tensions”.
The warning to “avoid gatherings and crowded places” came as Turkey’s foreign ministry lodged a formal protest with the Dutch envoy.
Meanwhile, Dutch deputy PM Lodewijk Asscher said that “to be called Nazis by a regime which is walking backwards in regards to human rights is just disgusting”.
The row spilled over into the campaign for March 15 general election in the Netherlands, with PM Mark Rutte defending in a live TV debate his decision to stop Turkish ministers addressing Dutch Turks.
His opponent, Geert Wilders of the far-right, anti-Islam Freedom Party, said the real problem was that Turks waving Turkish flags on a Dutch street had shown where their loyalties lay.
European Union leaders called for calm.
The proposed rallies aimed to encourage a large number of Turks living in Europe to vote Yes in a referendum on April 16 on expanding the president’s powers. The plans were criticized by senior EU officials on March 13.
In Germany, for example, there are more than three million people of Turkish origin, of whom an estimated 1.4 million are eligible to vote in Turkish elections. In effect, the diaspora is Turkey’s fourth-largest electoral district.
Planned rallies in Germany, Austria and the Netherlands were blocked after officials cited security concerns or said the rallies could stoke tensions.
A gathering in France went ahead, however, after officials said it did not pose a threat.
Two Turkish ministers were barred from addressing rallies in Rotterdam, with one of them escorted to the German border.
Police used dogs and water cannon against protesters waving Turkish flags in Rotterdam.
“I have said that I had thought that Nazism was over, but I was wrong,” he said.
He later lashed out at the German chancellor.
“Mrs. Merkel, why are you hiding terrorists in your country? Why are you not doing anything?” he said, in comments quoted by AFP.
“Mrs. Merkel, you are supporting terrorists.”
Turkey has previously accused Germany of harboring Kurdish militants and suspects wanted over the failed coup attempt of July 15, 2016.
Turkey’s EU affairs minister, Omer Celik, said Ankara would retaliate against the Netherlands. He later suggested reconsidering part of a deal with the EU aimed at curbing an influx of migrants, namely Turkey’s efforts to prevent them crossing by land to Greece and Bulgaria.
On March 13, the Dutch charge d’affaires in Ankara was summoned for the third time in three days in protest against the treatment of the minister escorted to Germany and the treatment of protesters in Rotterdam.
Mark Rutte said President Erdogan’s comment that the Dutch were “Nazi remnants” was “unacceptable”, and demanded an apology.
Responding to Turkish calls for sanctions, he said the Netherlands would “never negotiate under threat”.
“This rejection is also valid for our allies. These comparisons are completely misguided… particularly in the Netherlands that endured so much agony through the National Socialists,” she said.
“That’s why the Netherlands can count on my complete support and solidarity in this.”
Danish PM Lars Lokke Rasmussen said he had postponed a meeting later this month with his Turkish counterpart Binali Yildirim because “with the current Turkish attacks on Holland the meeting cannot be seen separated from that”.
However, when Fatma Betul Sayan Kaya arrived, Dutch authorities refused to allow her entry to the consulate, sparking a stream of angry tweets.
Fatma Betul Sayan Kaya was then taken to the German border by police, Dutch PM Mark Rutte confirmed on March 12.
In a Facebook post, Mark Rutte said attempts to find a “reasonable solution” to the countries’ differences had proved “impossible”, while dismissing Fatma Betul Sayan Kaya’s arrival in Rotterdam as “irresponsible”.
Many of the countries have cited security concerns as the official reason the rallies have been banned or moved.
Austrian Foreign Minister Sebastian Kurz said President Erdogan was not welcome to hold rallies as this could increase friction and hinder integration.
Dutch PM Mark Rutte said the Netherlands asked Turkey to desist as they feared “compromised public order and security”.
However, many European nations have also expressed deep disquiet about Turkey’s response to the July coup attempt and the country’s perceived slide towards authoritarianism under Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
Germany in particular has been critical of the mass arrests and purges that followed – with nearly 100,000 civil servants removed from their posts.
Recep Tayyip Erdogan has lashed out at Germany and the Netherlands, denouncing the Dutch government as “Nazi remnants and fascists”, while accusing Germany of “Nazi practices”.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel has condemned the Nazi jibe as “unacceptable”, while Mark Rutte dismissed it as a “crazy remark”.
However, Recep Tayyip Erdogan escalated the rhetoric after the Netherlands banned his foreign minister Mevlut Cavusoglu from entering the country by plane by threatening to block Dutch flights.
The Turkish president said: “Ban our foreign minister from flying however much you like, but from now on, let’s see how your flights will land in Turkey.”
Mevlut Cavusoglu also warned Turkey would impose heavy sanctions if his visit was blocked.
Fatma Betul Sayan Kaya ‘s arrival, by road, was seen as a further provocation by Turkey on the part of the Dutch – although Mark Rutte says his government remains “in favor” of speaking with President Erdogan and his colleagues to find a resolution.
Over two hundreds people have been arrested in Turkey for acting on behalf of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), the interior ministry says.
Among those 235 arrested are officials from the main Kurdish People’s Democratic Party (HDP).
The arrests come two days after twin bomb attacks near Istanbul’s Besiktas stadium which killed 44 people.
Meanwhile, Austria says that talks with Turkey over membership of the EU should be suspended.
Image source RT
A statement from the interior ministry says the operation covered 11 provinces across Turkey from the northwest to the southeast, and targeted people suspected of “spreading terror group propaganda”.
It is not clear whether December 12 arrests were directly related to the bomb attacks.
Speaking in parliament, Turkish Health Minister Recep Akdag said most of the 44 people killed on December 10 were policemen.
The Kurdish militant group TAK, an offshoot of the PKK, said in a statement it had carried out the attack.
President Recep Tayyip Erdogan told reporters on December 11 that Turkey would fight “the scourge of terrorism to the end”, and promised that the attackers would pay a “heavy price”.
Last month, 10 HDP lawmakers – including co-leaders Selahattin Demirtas and Figen Yuksekdag – were arrested, causing international alarm.
Speaking ahead of a meeting with his EU counterparts in Brussels, Austrian Foreign Minister Sebastian Kurz said that Europe could no longer ignore President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s crackdown on the opposition.
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