sábado, 16 de julho de 2016

Troops try to seize power in Turkey

Troops try to seize power in Turkey

President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan rejects coup and urges people to take to the streets.

By ROY GUTMAN 7/15/16, 10:55 PM CET Updated 7/16/16, 6:25 AM CET

ISTANBUL — A faction in the Turkish military Friday night declared it had staged a coup and seized “full control” of this country of nearly 80 million, in a bid that media reports said had killed at least 60.

However, within hours government officials said that the attempt to seize the country had failed.

The coup-backers sent tanks to shut down the main bridges over the Bosphorus strait, closed Istanbul’s main airport, took over the state television and declared a curfew.

By Saturday morning, the soldiers on the Bosphorus bridge had surrendered and the airport was back under government control.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan early Saturday had urged the public to take to the streets and defeat an attempt by “a minority” of the Turkish military to take power. He was unable to speak on the state television, which was under control of the military, and instead had communicate over FaceTime to CNN Turk, a news channel. “They will pay the price, the highest cost at the end,” Erdoğan said.

The station was later taken over by the military.

The attempted military putsch in this critical NATO ally follows years of tension between Erdoğan’s Justice and Development Party, which has its roots in political Islam and came to power 14 years ago, and the military — which has been the guardian of the country’s secular tradition dating back to the foundation of the Turkish republic.

In more recent years, Erdoğan, a divisive figure, has accrued greater personal power and become more authoritarian. Over the same period, the country has suffered from a wave of terrorist attacks attributed to the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant and a renewal of fighting in Kurdish areas.

In what it called “public statement number one,” the coup organizers declared that the aim of the uprising was to restore democracy in Turkey.

“The Turkish Armed Forces, in order to reestablish constitutional order, democracy, rights and freedoms, rule of law, safety and security of the Turkish nation and the state, has taken over all governmental responsibilities of the Republic of Turkey … All of our international commitments and agreements are in place. We hope to continue our good and friendly relations with all countries in the world.”

In a second statement issued early Saturday, the coup organizers reaffirmed that a nationwide curfew was in effect, directly contradicting Erdoğan’s call for the public to take to the streets.

The group called itself the “Peace at Home Council,” using a phrase that the founder of the modern republic, Kemal Atatürk, made the watchword for the country’s foreign policy —“Peace at home, peace in the world.” It accused Erdoğan of destroying the constitutional order and the secular democratic state.

“Curfew has been declared all over Turkey until security can be maintained,” the statement said in an unofficial translation. “The Peace at Home Council makes this statement due to the systematic violations of the constitution and a serious threat to the fundamental nature of the state. All state institutions including the Turkish Armed Forces are being diverted by ideological aims, and therefore were unable to fulfill their functions.”

It added: “Fundamental rights and freedoms have been damaged by the president and his government, and the secular and democratic state of law based on a separation of powers have been de facto eliminated. Our state has lost its prestige in the international arena, universal human rights are being disregarded, and our country has become an autocracy based on fear.”

Erdoğan was on vacation on the Aegean coast but quickly flew to Istanbul, landing at the city’s Ataturk airport in the middle of the night, a government spokesman said.

Speaking over FaceTime, the president said, “We will overcome this. I urge the Turkish people to gather at public squares and airports. … There is no power higher than the power of the people.”

In response, large groups of his supporters gathered in Istanbul and Ankara.

Amid reports that the chief of staff of the Turkish military was being held at gunpoint by the coup organizers in Ankara, gunfire has been heard in what some government officials described as fighting between the Turkish military and the police. Later a government spokesman said the chief of staff was again performing his duties.

Gunshots were heard in the capital Ankara and military planes flew low overhead. A bomb hit the Turkish parliament, the Andolu Agency reported. In another report from NTV, a Turkish fighter jet shot down a helicopter used by coup plotters over Ankara.

There also were reports of gunfire in one central district of Istanbul, Turkey’s largest city. But in Beyoglu, Istanbul’s business district, the main streets were quiet, and there was no sign of military or police personnel, even at a principal administrative headquarters of the state television.

Early in the morning, imams at the country’s mosques sounded a call to prayer.

Shortly after 3 a.m., fighter planes started criss-crossing the skies of central Istanbul, several of them breaking the sound barrier.

Erdoğan blamed the uprising on Fetulleh Gulen, a retired Islamic cleric and former political ally, who once had a sizeable following in the Turkish police, judiciary and military. The president had been due to hold a meeting of the High Military Council, a body overseeing the military, and there were reports he was planning oust anyone still linked with Gulen.

Gulen now lives in exile in Pennsylvania, and Erdoğan has tried, thus far unsuccessfully, to obtain his extradition to face charges of supporting terrorism.

The first confirmation that a coup was under way came from Prime Minister Binali Yıldırım. “It is correct that there was an attempt,” he said. But he said the operation could not succeed, and later said that the situation in the country was back under control. He said that 130 soldiers had been arrested as of early Saturday.

Another official spokesman predicted that the government would restore all control by morning.

U.S. President Barack Obama called on all parties to “support the democratically elected government of Turkey” and to “show restraint, and avoid any violence or bloodshed.”

Federica Mogherini, the EU’s foreign policy chief, called for “restraint and respect for democratic institutions” in Turkey.

Paul Dallison contributed to this article.

The article has been updated with government claims that the coup has failed.


Roy Gutman  

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