ISTANBUL: Turkish security forces launched fresh raids Monday in a relentless crackdown against the suspected plotters of a coup that left over 290 dead, as President Recep Tayyip Erdogan mooted reintroducing the death penalty to punish them.
Erdogan faced down the coup bid late Friday by elements in the military disgruntled with his 13-year rule. But Turkey’s allies have warned him against excessive retribution as the authorities round up the perpetrators.
The justice minister has said around 6,000 people have been detained so far in the investigation into Friday’s coup which Erdogan has blamed on his arch-enemy, US-based preacher Fethullah Gulen.
Early Monday, special Istanbul anti-terror police units raided the prestigious air force military academy in the city in search of new suspects, the state-run Anadolu news agency reported.
Meanwhile, authorities have also detained General Mehmet Disli, who conducted the operation to capture Turkey’s chief-of-staff Hulusi Akar during the standoff, an official said.
Reports had said that a total of 36 generals had been detained so far. The Dogan agency reported Monday that 10 of them had now been remanded in custody by the courts.
Erdogan has urged citizens to remain on the streets even after the defeat of the coup, in what the authorities describe as a “vigil” for democracy.
New demonstrations of support were held throughout the country on Sunday night, Agence France-Presse correspondents said.
Thousands of pro-Erdogan supporters waving Turkish flags filled the main Kizilay Square in Ankara while similar scenes were seen in Taksim Square in Istanbul, AFP photographers said.
According to Anadolu, 1,800 additional elite special police forces have been drafted in from surrounding provinces to ensure security in Istanbul.
Eleven soldiers suspected of involvement in the coup were detained Sunday at Istanbul’s Sabiha Gokcen airport, with authorities firing warning shots in the air, a Turkish official said.
Clashes also erupted at an air base in the central city of Konya between security forces and putschists trying to evade arrest.
‘Pay the price’
Leaders including US President Barack Obama and German Chancellor Angela Merkel have urged Turkey to follow the rule of law in the wake of the coup.
EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini stressed on Monday that the rule of law needed to be protected for the sake of the country.
And French Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault warned Erdogan against using the failed putsch as a “blank cheque” to silence his opponents.
But Erdogan added fuel to the fire late on Sunday when he told supporters that Turkey could consider re-introducing the death penalty, which it had abolished as part of its longstanding EU membership bid.
“In democracies, decisions are made based on what the people say. I think our government will speak with the opposition and come to a decision,” he said, reacting to crowds in Istanbul calling for the death penalty.