Turkey dismisses military, shuts media outlets as crackdown deepens

Turkey on July 27 deepened a crackdown on suspected followers of a U.S.-based cleric it blames for a failed coup, dismissing nearly 1,700 military personnel and shutting 131 media outlets, moves that may spark more concern among its Western allies.

Turkish journalist Nazli Ilicak (C), also a well-known commentator and former parliamentarian, is escorted by a police officer (R) and her relatives (L and rear) after being detained and brought to a hospital for a medical check in Bodrum, Turkey, July 26, 2016.
So far, tens of thousands of people - including police, judges and teachers - have been suspended or placed under investigation since the July 15-16 coup, which Turkey says was staged by a faction within the military loyal to the Muslim cleric Fethullah Gulen.

Gulen, who lives in self-imposed exile in Pennsylvania but whose movement has a wide following in Turkey where it runs a large network of schools, has denied any involvement in the failed putsch.

Western governments and human rights groups, while condemning the abortive coup in which at least 246 people were killed and more than 2,000 injured, have expressed concern over the extent of the crackdown, suggesting President Tayyip Erdogan may be using it to stifle dissent and tighten his grip on power.

Erdogan, who narrowly escaped capture and possibly death on the night of the coup, denies the crackdown has wider aims and says the Gulen movement threatened democracy by attempting to build a "parallel state" within the military, media and civil service.

On July 27, the military dishonorably discharged 1,684 of its personnel, a Turkish government official said, citing their role in the failed coup. Of those, 149 were generals and admirals, said the official, who requested anonymity. Data show that would represent roughly 40 percent of all generals and admirals in Turkey's military.

Broadcaster CNN Turk has reported that more than 15,000 people, including around 10,000 soldiers had been detained so far over the coup, citing the interior minister. Of those, more than 8,000 were formally arrested pending trial, it said.

In addition, the government said in its official gazette that three news agencies, 16 television channels, 45 newspapers, 15 magazines and 29 publishers have been ordered shut down.

These moves, which follow the closure of other media outlets with suspected Gulenist ties as well as the detention of journalists will further stoke concerns among rights groups and Western governments about the scale of Erdogan's post-coup purges.

The United States said on July 27 it understood Turkey's need to hold perpetrators of the attempted coup to account, but said the detention of more journalists was part of a "troubling trend".

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