Middle East

Erdogan vows Turkish military shake-up

Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan says the three-month emergency may be extended because a new coup attempt is possible.

Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan has vowed to restructure the military and give it "fresh blood" as emergency rule took hold across the NATO member country after last week's attempted coup.

Erdogan's comments to Reuters in an interview - his first since announcing a state of emergency late on Wednesday - came as Turkey sought to assure its citizens and the outside world that the government was not turning its back on democracy and returning to the harsh repression of past regimes.

Erdogan accuses Fethullah Gulen, a charismatic US-based cleric, of masterminding the plot against him, which crumbled early on Saturday.

In a crackdown on his suspected followers, more than 60,000 soldiers, police, judges, civil servants and teachers have been suspended, detained or placed under investigation.

Western countries are worried about instability and human rights in the country of 80 million, which plays an important part in the US-led fight against Islamic State and in the European Union's efforts to stem the flow of refugees from Syria.

Erdogan said the government's Supreme Military Council, which is chaired by the prime minister, and includes the defence minister and the chief of staff, would oversee the restructuring of the armed forces.

"Within a very short amount of time a new structure will be emerging. With this new structure, I believe the armed forces will get fresh blood," Erdogan said.

Erdogan also said there was no obstacle to extending the state of emergency beyond the initial three months - a comment likely to spark concern among critics already fearful about the pace of his crackdown.

Emergency powers allow the government to take swift measures against supporters of the coup, in which more than 246 people were killed and over 2000 wounded.

Emergency rule will also permit the president and cabinet to bypass parliament in enacting new laws and to limit or suspend rights and freedoms as they deem necessary.

Germany called for the measure to end as quickly as possible, while an international lawyers' group warned Turkey against using it to subvert the rule of law and human rights, pointing to allegations of torture and ill-treatment of people held in the mass roundup.

For some Turks, the state of emergency raised fears of a return to the days of martial law after a 1980 military coup, or the height of a Kurdish insurgency in the 1990s when much of the largely Kurdish southeast was under a state of emergency declared by the previous government.

Opposition parties which stood with the authorities against the coup expressed concern that the state of emergency could concentrate too much power in the hands of Erdogan, whose rivals have long accused him of suppressing free speech.

Deputy Prime Minister Mehmet Simsek took to television, social media and news conferences in a bid to calm nervous financial markets and dispel comparisons with the past.

"The state of emergency in Turkey won't include restrictions on movement, gatherings and free press etc. It isn't martial law of 1990s," he wrote on Twitter.

But Erdogan, who has raised the possibility of reinstating the death penalty in Turkey to punish coup leaders, suggested in his comments to Reuters that the emergency was also aimed at eradicating supporters of Gulen in Turkey.

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