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Turkey bans all academics from travel in latest post-coup measure

Thursday 21 July 2016, by siawi3


By Hugh Naylor and Loveday Morris

July 20 at 1:27 PM

ISTANBUL — Turkey issued a ban on professional travel for all academics and opened top-to-bottom investigations into military courts Wednesday as security chiefs planned the next steps in sweeping crackdowns after last week’s failed coup.

Already, the purges and probes have touched tens of thousands of people — judges, civil servants, military, police and others — as Turkey’s leaders seek to root out opponents and perceived internal dissident.

The latest moves underscored the expanding reach of the fallout.

At least 262 military judges and prosecutors were suspended as part of a full-scale investigation by the Defense Ministry into all personnel in its judiciary, the private NTV broadcaster reported without giving additional details.

The travel restrictions on educators, reported the state broadcaster TRT, officially applied to work-related trips.

But some professors and others in academic fields claim that their administrators interpret the order more rigid, saying they cannot leave the country for any reason. Several university professors also confirmed that their overseers told them to cancel vacations and other leave plans indefinitely.

It came a day after more than 15,000 education workers were suspended and resignations were demanded for all university deans.

The government is presenting the measures as an effort to confront a wide-ranging conspiracy led by a U.S.-based Turkish cleric, and as a way of curbing the influence of the once-powerful military. Critics, however, claim that the government of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is using the coup attempt as an excuse to eliminate the last vestiges of opposition to its rule.

Fethullah Gulen, the cleric accused of inspiring the coup attempt, has denied any links to the plot, implying instead that Erdogan staged it as part of a bid to consolidate power. Gulen lives in self-imposed exile in Pennsylvania and his backers operate education networks in Turkey, the United States and elsewhere.

The press credentials of at least 34 Turkish journalists were also revoked because of alleged ties to Gulen’s movement, the Associated Press reported, citing Turkish media.

A senior Turkish official described the travel ban on academics as just a “temporary measure.â€
“As you surely know, universities have always been crucial for military juntas in Turkey, and certain individuals are believed to be in contact with cells within military,†he said.

Many academics have been critical of Erdogan in the past.

The state telecommunications authority has also announced it has blocked access to WikiLeaks, the whistle-blowing website, after it announced the release of nearly 300,000 emails from Erdogan’s party.

The site said it was releasing the emails, which could possibly contain material embarrassing to the government, earlier than planned “in response to the government’s post-coup purges,†though the latest of the emails dates to a week before the coup took place.

The government has also announced an “important decision†is expected Wednesday after a meeting of the national security leaders, raising expectations that more purges will follow.

More than 45,000 military officials, police officers, judges, governors and civil servants have also been fired, detained or suspended since a mutinous faction of Turkey’s military staged an attempted overthrow of the government Friday night, hijacking fighter jets and helicopters to strike key installations and security forces.

Mevlut Cavusoglu, Turkey’s minister of foreign affairs, said in an interview that the issue of civilian oversight of the military — a matter of long-standing debate within Turkish politics — would be addressed during Wednesday’s national security meetings. A government official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the announcement has yet to be made public, also said military reforms could be proposed.

The military has long seen itself as the guardian of secularism in this mostly Muslim country and has staged a series of coups in past decades, but its power has been gradually diminished. Thousands of Turks took to the streets to prevent another coup, but the crackdown has raised fears that Erdogan — who described the plot as a “gift from God†— will use it as an opportunity to make the government more authoritarian.

The government official said military reform would likely bring the army chief of staff under the Defense Ministry and give parliament more oversight of the military’s budget and ranks.

In order to change the constitution without a referendum, Erdogan’s party will need support from 367 members in Turkey’s 550-seat parliament, Cavusoglu said. It needs 330 votes to hold a referendum.

The United States and Europe have urged Turkey, a NATO member and ally, to follow the rule of law and maintain democratic principles amid the sweeping fallout from the coup attempt.

In a telephone call to Erdogan on Tuesday, his first to the Turkish president since the coup attempt, President Obama “strongly condemned†the insurrection and “lauded the Turkish people’s resolve against this violent intervention and their commitment to democracy.â€

A White House statement said Obama urged that investigations into the perpetrators “be conducted in ways that reinforce public confidence in democratic institutions and the rule of law†and said the United States would help the inquiry if asked.

Last year, a Turkish court overturned an order to close Gulen-linked schools in the country. But since the coup attempt, Turkey has also sacked 2,745 judges. Nearly 9,000 members of the Interior Ministry have been suspended, while thousands more police officers and soldiers have been fired.

While rights organizations have complained that the dismissals and detentions appear to have been carried out with little investigation, Turkish officials contend that there has been a long-standing investigation into Gulen’s movement.

Prime Minister Binali Yildirim said Tuesday that Turkey aims to remove the movement “by its roots.â€

Yildirim said that Turkey had formally requested Gulen’s extradition and thathis role in the events of last week was “clear.â€

White House press secretary Josh Earnest said that Obama and Erdogan discussed Gulen and that early Tuesday morning, “there were materials presented by the Turkish government in an electronic form to the U.S. government related to Mr. Gulen’s status.â€

Earnest said that it wasn’t clear whether the materials constituted a formal extradition request but that they would be reviewed by the Justice and State departments consistent with the 30-year-old extradition treaty between the two countries.

“But the president also made clear a couple of other things,†Earnest said. “The first is that the United States doesn’t support terrorists, the United States doesn’t support individuals who conspired to overthrow democratically elected governments. The United States follows the rule of law.â€

Extradition decisions, he said, are not made by the president but through a legal process and the courts.

The upheaval in Turkey has taken a toll on its financial markets and currency, the lira, which dipped to a record low against the dollar on Wednesday.

Loveday Morris reported from Ankara.

Hugh Naylor is a Beirut-based correspondent for The Post. He has reported from over a dozen countries in the Middle East for such publications as The National, an Abu Dhabi-based newspaper, and The New York Times.

Loveday Morris is The Post’s Baghdad bureau chief. She joined The Post in 2013 as a Beirut-based correspondent. She has previously covered the Middle East for The National, based in Abu Dhabi, and for the Independent, based in London and Beirut.