Turkey's President Erdogan calls for ‘fresh blood’ in military as he threatens to extend state of emergency

‘It is very clear that there were significant gaps and deficiencies in our intelligence, there is no point trying to hide it or deny it,’ the president says

Samuel Osborne
Friday 22 July 2016 18:46 BST
Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan greets his supporters following the Friday prayers in Ankara, Turkey, 22 July, 2016
Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan greets his supporters following the Friday prayers in Ankara, Turkey, 22 July, 2016 (Reuters)

Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has vowed to restructure the military and give it "fresh blood" in the wake of the recent failed coup – suggesting that he intends to make use of the newly-imposed state of emergency to continue his purge of state institutions.

President Erdogan said the government's Supreme Military Council, which is chaired by the prime minister, and includes the defence minister and the chief of staff, would oversee the restructuring of the armed forces.

"They are all working together as to what might be done, and ... within a very short amount of time a new structure will be emerging. With this new structure, I believe the armed forces will get fresh blood," he said.

In an interview with Reuters at his palace in Ankara – which was targeted during the attempted coup – Mr Erdogan said a new putsch was possible but would not be easy because authorities were now more vigilant.

"It is very clear that there were significant gaps and deficiencies in our intelligence, there is no point trying to hide it or deny it," he said.

The president also said there was no obstacle to extending the state of emergency beyond three months, a comment likely to spark concern among critics already fearful about the pace of his crackdown, which have seen tens of thousands either detained or pushed out of their jobs. Earlier, President Erdogan said the three-month state of emergency would enable authorities to act quicker and more efficiently against the coup plotters.

Turkey's prime minister warned on Friday of the possibility that not all of those responsible for last week's attempted coup have been apprehended during the ensuing crackdown.

Binali Yildirim said there is “a remote chance some madmen might take action, acting out of a sense of revenge and defeat”.

Also on Friday, the country's justice minister said Turkey would not bow to pressure from the European Union to rule out restoring the death penalty to execute plotters.

Turkey outlawed capital punishment in 2004 as part of its bid to join the bloc and European officials have said backtracking on the death penalty would effectively put an end to the EU accession process. But crowds at rallies have demanded the coup plotters be executed, and the government says it must at least consider it.

“People demand the death penalty and that demand will surely be assessed. We have to assess that demand from the standpoint of law, and not according to what the EU says,” Justice Minister Bekir Bozdag told broadcaster CNN Turk.

Turkey has temporarily suspend the European Convention on Human Rights. Deputy prime minister Numan Kurtulmus said on Thursday that Turkey would follow the example set by France when it did so following last November's attacks by Isis militants in Paris.

Turkey failed coup attempt: How it unfolded

Mr Erdogan accuses Fethullah Gulen, a US-based cleric, of being behind the plot against him. In a crackdown on Gulen's suspected followers, more than 60,000 soldiers, police, judges, civil servants and teachers have been suspended, detained or placed under investigation.

Mr Gulen, who has lived in self-imposed exile in the United States for years, has denied any role in the attempted putsch, and accused Erdogan of orchestrating it himself. Turkey wants the United States to extradite him; Washington says Ankara must first provide clear evidence – something that US President Barack Obama reiterated on Friday.

The state of emergency will allow President Erdogan and cabinet to bypass parliament in enacting new laws and to limit or suspend rights and freedoms as they deem necessary.

Germany called for the measure to end as quickly as possible.

An international lawyers' group warned Turkey against using it to subvert the rule of law and human rights, pointing to allegations of torture and ill-treatment of people held in the mass roundup.

EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini said the reaction to the coup must not undermine fundamental rights.

"What we're seeing especially in the fields of universities, media, the judiciary, is unacceptable," she said of detentions and dismissals of judges, academics and journalists.

President Erdogan has declared 15 July a national holiday in Turkey to commemorate the people who gave their lives during the failed coup attempt. The government claims 246 pro-government supporters — security forces and civilians — died while confronting the attempted military coup, and 24 coup plotters also died.

Mr Erdogan said the date would be celebrated every year as “martyr remembrance day”

"These people have infiltrated the state organisation in this country and they rebelled against the state," he added, calling the coup "inhuman" and "immoral", he said.

"We will continue the fight ... wherever they might be," Mr Erdogan added.

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