Turkish authorities on Sunday ordered the dismissal of more than 18 500 state employees, including police officers, soldiers and academics, ahead of the expected end of a two-year state of emergency this month.
The Official Gazette said 18 632 people had been sacked including 8 998 police officers over suspected links to terror organisations that “act against national security”, in what could be the last of the purges under emergency rule.
Turkey has been in a state of emergency since the July 2016 attempted overthrow of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan but the European Union and critics have repeatedly called on Ankara to end it.
Turkish media dubbed Sunday’s decree as the “last”, with officials indicating the government could declare emergency rule over as early as Monday.
The latest period is officially due to end on July 19.
Critics say Erdogan is using the extra powers permitted under emergency rule, renewed seven times, to target opponents, with human rights defenders including Amnesty International lambasting the purges as arbitrary.
But the government says they are necessary to remove multiple terror threats inside state institutions.
Erdogan on Monday will be sworn in as president after his outright victory in June 24 elections under a new executive presidency, following that there will be a lavish ceremony and then the new cabinet will be announced.
The current parliamentary system will end on Monday after constitutional changes were approved in a 2017 referendum.
During the election campaign, pushed by his opponents’ promises including his main opposition rival Muharrem Ince, Erdogan vowed to lift the state of emergency if he was re-elected.
“The new government will be announced on Monday, the cabinet will start to work and the state of emergency will be completed,” outgoing Prime Minister Binali Yildirim said last week, although he reiterated that the latest extension was due to end mid-July.
Turkey accuses US-based Muslim preacher Fethullah Gulen of orchestrating the attempted coup. The majority of those fired under the emergency are accused of links to Gulen.
The government refers to the movement as the “Fethullah Terrorist Organisation” but Gulen strongly denies any coup links and insists his movement is a peaceful.
Over 110 000 public sector employees have been removed from their jobs via emergency decrees since July 2016, while tens of thousands more have been suspended in a crackdown criticised by Ankara’s Western allies.
In the new decree, 3 077 army soldiers were also dismissed as well as 1 949 air force personnel and 1 126 from the naval forces.
Another 1 052 civil servants from the justice ministry and linked institutions have been fired as well as 649 from the gendarmerie and 192 from the coast guard.
Authorities also sacked 199 academics, according to the new decree, while 148 state employees from the military and ministries were reinstated.
Earlier this year, the government said more than 77 000 people had been arrested over alleged links to Gulen.
The detentions show no sign of slowing down after hundreds of people including soldiers were taken into custody last week over Gulen links.
Associations, newspapers closed
Thousands have also been dismissed, suspended or arrested over suspected ties to the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which has waged a bloody insurgency against Turkey since 1984.
The PKK is blacklisted as a terrorist group by Ankara, the EU and the United States.
Sunday’s decree shut down 12 associations, many of them in the education sector, across the country as well as three newspapers and a television channel.
One of the newspapers closed was the Kurdish-language daily Welat based in the southeastern province of Diyarbakir as well as the pro-Kurdish Ozgurlukcu Demokrasi whose Istanbul offices were raided by police in March.
© Agence France-Presse