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Turkey to extend state of emergency amid freedom concerns

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has been criticised by various rights groups [Getty]

Date of publication: 17 January, 2018

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Turkey's National Security Council is meeting on Wednesday to recommend prolonging the state of emergency by a further three months.
Turkey is set to extend a state of emergency for the sixth time since it was imposed following a failed coup attempt in 2016.

Government opponents and allies fear the special powers are thrusting Turkey toward an increasingly authoritarian direction.

The state of emergency, declared five days after the July 15 2016 coup, has allowed a massive government crackdown aimed at suspected supporters of US based Muslim cleric Fethullah Gulen, whom Turkey says was behind the coup attempt. Gulen denies any involvement.

Turkey's National Security Council is meeting on Wednesday to recommend prolonging the state of emergency by a further three months, before the extension is due to be approved by the Council of Ministers later in the day and voted on in parliament on Thursday. Its current term expires on January 19.

The government has defended its move to extend the emergency rule pointing to the severity of the coup attempt – during which rogue soldiers attacked parliament and other state buildings leading to more than 250 deaths – and citing a continued security threat from Gulen's network of supporters.

The state of emergency has paved the way for the arrest of government opponents, including activists, journalists and politicians and the closure of media and non-governmental organisations over alleged links to extremist groups.

Most crucially, it has allowed President Recep Tayyip Erdogan to rule through decrees, often bypassing parliament which he has long accused of slowing down his government's ability to perform.

Erdogan has said the state of emergency will remain as long as security threats persist. Few believe that Erdogan will allow the emergency rule to end before a presidential election in 2019, when a set of constitutional amendments, narrowly approved in a referendum in April, come into effect, giving the president sweeping powers.

Under the state of emergency, Turkey has arrested around 50,000 people and purged 110,000 civil servants in a crackdown aimed at cleansing the state of Gulen's followers.

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