Turkey detains 42 journalists in crackdown as Europe sounds alarm

Turkey ordered the detention of 42 journalists on July 25, broadcaster NTV reported, under a crackdown following a failed coup that has targeted more than 60,000 people and drawn fire from the European Union.

Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan reviews a guard of honour as he arrives to the Turkish Parliament in Ankara, Turkey, July 22, 2016.
The arrests or suspensions of soldiers, police, judges and civil servants in response to the July 15-16 putsch have raised concerns among rights groups and Western countries, who fear President Tayyip Erdogan is capitalizing on it to tighten his grip on power.

EU Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker questioned Ankara's long-standing aspiration to join the EU.

"I believe that Turkey, in its current state, is not in a position to become a member any time soon and not even over a longer period," Juncker said on French television France 2.

Juncker also said that if Turkey reintroduces the death penalty - something the government has said it must consider, responding to calls from supporters at public rallies for the coup leaders to be executed - it would stop the EU accession process immediately.

Turkey abolished capital punishment in 2004, allowing it to open EU accession talks the following year, but the negotiations have made scant progress since then. The country plays an pivotal role in the U.S.-led fight against Islamic State and in containing the flow of refugees fleeing the conflict in Syria.

Erdogan reiterated his government's stance on the possible restoration of capital punishment in an interview with German television station ARD broadcast on July 25.

"What do the (Turkish) people say today?" Erdogan asked in the interview. "They want the death penalty reintroduced. And we as the government must listen to what the people say. We can't say 'no, that doesn't interest us.'"

Responding to Juncker's comments, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu told Haberturk TV that Europe cannot threaten Turkey regarding the death penalty.

Erdogan has declared a state of emergency, which allows him to sign new laws without prior parliamentary approval and limit rights as he deems necessary. The government has said these steps are needed to root out supporters of the coup and will not infringe on the rights of ordinary Turks.

NTV reported that among the 42 journalists subject to arrest warrants was well-known commentator and former parliamentarian Nazli Ilicak.

Hinting at a possible concentration of more power in the presidency in the aftermath of the abortive coup, Prime Minister Binali Yildirim said on July 25 that political parties have enough common ground to pass limited constitutional changes and aim to eventually draft a whole new charter.

He spoke to reporters after a cabinet meeting chaired by Erdogan, who met with two out of three opposition party leaders earlier in the day.

"There is unity of understanding among the party leaders to carry out work on drafting a new constitution ... Small-scale constitutional changes could be done through consensus," Yildirim said.

He also said that the gendarmerie and Coast Guard would now report to the civilian Interior Ministry and no longer the Turkish Armed Forces.

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