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Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 13 December 2018

Turkey sacks some 2,700 more public sector workers

Human rights organisations express alarm at government's 'increasing authoritarianism'

A man passes by a bus with a message reading "We do not forget July 15" in Istanbul in October, during the trial of 143 soldiers accused of causing the deaths of 34 people on Istanbul's first Bosphorus bridge on the night of last year's failed coup. Ozan Kose / AFP
A man passes by a bus with a message reading "We do not forget July 15" in Istanbul in October, during the trial of 143 soldiers accused of causing the deaths of 34 people on Istanbul's first Bosphorus bridge on the night of last year's failed coup. Ozan Kose / AFP

Turkey has sacked 2,756 more people from its public service sector for alleged links to terror groups as it presses ahead with purges launched following last year's failed military coup.

According to two government decrees published on the online legal data bank Official Gazette, those dismissed in the new wave of purges include 637 military personnel, 360 gendarmerie force members and 150 academics or other university personnel.

Turkey blames the July 2016 coup on US-based cleric Fethullah Gulen. Some 50,000 people have been arrested and more than 110,000 civil servants have been dismissed for alleged links to Gulen or militant groups in a crackdown since then.

The government says the purges are needed to counter the continuing danger posed by followers of Gulen's movement. Gulen denies involvement in the coup.

Critics say the government is using its emergency powers to jail opponents and silence dissent.

According to Sunday's decrees, defendants who are on trial on terrorism charges will from now on appear in court wearing "almond and gray-colored uniforms."

The decision comes months after a defendant accused of links to the coup wore a T-shirt with the word "hero" emblazoned on it, sparking a public outcry. President Recep Tayyip Erdogan vowed to ensure that Gulen supporters wore uniforms similar to those worn by prisoners at Guantanamo Bay when appearing in court.

On Sunday, Erdogan told reporters the uniforms would be worn by male defendants. Justice ministry officials would also work out a dress code for female defendants.

According to Human Rights Watch (HRW) people accused of links with terrorist groups or the military coup have been abducted and tortured whilst in police custody.

“Given Turkey’s dark history of enforced disappearances, the authorities need to locate the men still missing, and ensure that anyone held by state agents has regular access to a lawyer and their family knows where they are,” said HRW Europe and Central Asia Director.

Several local and international human rights organisations have expressed alarm at the ongoing crackdown, with HRW calling it "symptomatic of the government’s increasing authoritarianism." Turkey came under immense scrutiny following the arrest of 11 human rights activists, including the Amnesty International Turkey director.

Press freedom has also been targeted, with the Committee to Protect Journalists naming Turkey the world's worst jailer for the second consecutive year with 73 journalists behind bars while hundreds of outlets have been shut down or taken over.

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