Turkey’s president has declared a state of emergency for three months following Friday night’s failed army coup.
The emergency allows the president and cabinet to bypass parliament when drafting new laws and to restrict or suspend rights and freedoms. Speaking at the presidential palace in Ankara, Recep Tayyip Erdogan vowed that “all the viruses within the armed forces will be cleansed”.
Thousands of people have been arrested or sacked since the failed coup. More than 600 schools have also been closed and thousands of state workers sacked in a crackdown by the president.
The state of emergency gives President Erdogan radically enhanced powers for three months. He and the cabinet will be able to enact laws bypassing parliament; the constitutional court will be unable to challenge them; there could be restrictions on publications and freedom of assembly; and broader powers of arrest.
The government insists it will not affect the daily life of citizens and that the state of emergency will only root out the “virus” behind the coup. It points out that similar measures are in France since the Paris attacks last November. And President Erdogan says this actually aims to protect democracy and human rights. But given the criticism of the president for curbing both while in office, doubts persist over how an increasingly authoritarian leader will use this, especially given the recent purges.
France and Germany have spoken out loudest but Mr Erdogan has been typically forthright in his response, telling the French foreign minister to “mind his own business”. “This measure is in no way against democracy, the law and freedoms,” said Mr Erdogan after announcing the state of emergency.
The BBC’s Nick Thorpe in Turkey says that the government will be allowed to rule by decree, with the powers of regional governors increased. A re-organisation of the police, intelligence services and the command structure of the armed forces is also expected.
Critics of Mr Erdogan have accused him of consolidating power on a scale largely unprecedented since Turkey’s first democratic elections in 1946 and of using the emergency to acquire more power for the presidency. They say the president normally would need to alter the constitution to create an executive presidency and win back some of the powers he relinquished when his tenure as prime minister ended in 2014.
Mr Erdogan praised those who were killed fighting against the coup as “martyrs”. Some 246 people were killed resisting the attempted coup, according to the government. He was speaking after holding meetings of Turkey’s national security council and the cabinet in the capital.
German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier responded to the president’s speech by urging the Turkish government to maintain both the rule of law and a sense of proportionality in its response to the coup attempt. “Only provable involvement in illegal acts, not suspected political leanings, should trigger governmental action,” Mr Steinmeier said. “It’s also critical that the declaration of emergency be the truly necessary length of time, and to end the measure as quickly as possible.”
The president has blamed the coup attempt on US-based cleric Fethullah Gulen, a former ally whose followers run a worldwide network of schools. He has called for Mr Gulen to be extradited to Turkey, but US Secretary of State John Kerry said on Wednesday that Turkey must provide hard evidence the cleric was behind the coup attempt for any extradition to take place.
Earlier, Mr Erdogan warned of further arrests and suspensions to come as Turkish authorities continued to pursue those they believed responsible for the thwarted putsch. More than 50,000 state employees have been rounded up, sacked or suspended in the days since the coup attempt. On Wednesday, 99 top military officers were charged in connection with the events of the weekend.
Officials continued to take action against university and school employees, shutting down educational establishments, banning foreign travel for academics and forcing university heads of faculty to resign. The government has also revoked the press credentials of 34 journalists who it alleges are connected to Mr Gulen, according to Turkish media.
Amnesty International described the authorities’ actions as “a crackdown of exceptional proportions”.