ANKARA: Turkey’s prime minister warned Wednesday that the crackdown following a failed coup was not over, as authorities issued arrest warrants for dozens of former newspaper staff.
A senior minister also revealed that a major army shake-up had been planned just before the putsch — suggesting elements in the military made the dramatic move because they knew they were about to be purged.
Since the attempted power grab on the night of July 15, more than 15,000 people have been detained and more than 8,000 of them remain in custody, according to the latest interior ministry figures.
“The investigation is continuing, there are people who are being searched for. There could be new apprehensions, arrests and detentions,” Prime Minister Binali Yildirim told Sky News, according to the network’s translation of his remarks.
“The process is not completed yet,” he said.
In the attempted coup, renegade soldiers sought to topple President Recep Tayyip Erdogan but were stopped by crowds of civilians and loyalist security forces.
At least 270 people were killed on both sides.
Turkey blames the botched putsch on US-based preacher Fethullah Gulen, who strongly denies the accusations and demands that the United States resist calls for his extradition.
But Yildirim said Turkey was “determined” to secure his removal.
“We shared all the details with them and, from this point on, the task falls on the shoulders of the US government,” the prime minister said.
Energy Minister Berat Albayrak, who is Erdogan’s son-in-law, said Turkish authorities had been planning a major purge of the military and other institutions to remove Gulen-linked elements ahead of the coup attempt.
He suggested parts of the armed forces had wanted to act against the government as they knew they were about to be expelled.
“They were going to take really important steps to remove Gulenist officers and generals from the armed forces. We were already working on this,” said Albayrak, who was with Erdogan on the coup night.
Turkey on Wednesday issued arrest warrants for 47 former staff of the once pro-Gulen Zaman newspaper suspected of links to the reclusive cleric.
An official who declined to be named said the swoop covered “executives and some staff including columnists”, describing Zaman as the “flagship media organisation” of the Gulen-led movement.
In March, Zaman and its English-language sister newspaper Today’s Zaman were taken over by state-appointed administrators and it has since taken a strongly pro-government line.
Several former staff are believed to have since left Turkey.
The official insisted the warrants were not related to what individual columnists had previously said or written.
But “prominent employees of Zaman are likely to have intimate knowledge of the Gulen network and as such could benefit the investigation”, the official explained.
Earlier in the week, Turkey issued another 42 arrest warrants for journalists which London-based rights group Amnesty International described as a “draconian clampdown on freedom of expression”.
Sixteen of those 42 have so far been detained, according to state-run news agency Anadolu.
New military shake-up
A large-scale shake-up of the Turkish armed forces is expected to be announced when the country’s Supreme Military Council meets on Thursday.
With 143 generals and more than 3,000 soldiers arrested on suspicion of coup links, there are gaping holes in the command structure which will have to be filled.
Tens of thousands of Turkish civilians have also lost their jobs since July 15.
Erdogan is set to visit Russia on August 9 to repair ties harmed by the downing of a Russian warplane by Turkish jets last year, in an apparent shift in diplomatic strategy.
“We will see more developed relations and that is what needs to take place,” Yildirim said of ties with Russia.
The EU meanwhile appointed a new ambassador to Turkey and repeated warnings that Ankara must respect democracy and human rights for ties to prosper.