ANKARA (Reuters) – Turkey issued a decree yesterday dismissing more than 18,000 civil servants, half of them from the police force, ahead of this month’s expected lifting of a two-year-old state of emergency imposed after an attempted coup in July 2016.
The decree follows President Tayyip Erdogan’s victory in last month’s presidential election and comes before he swears his oath today, inaugurating a powerful executive presidency.
The decree dismissed 199 academics from universities across the country, as well as more than 5,000 personnel from the armed forces. Authorities said, 148 state employees from the military and ministries were reinstated.
Yesterday’s decree also shut down 12 associations across the country as well as three newspapers and a television channel.
The Official Gazette said 18,632 people had been sacked including 8,998 police officers in the emergency decree over suspected links to terror organisations and groups that “act against national security”.
Some 3,077 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.
Turkey has been under a state of emergency since the July 2016 attempted overthrow of Mr Erdogan.
Turkish media dubbed the decree as the “last” with officials indicating the state of emergency could end as early as today.
The emergency has been renewed seven times and the latest period is officially due to end on July 19.
Over 110,000 public sector employees have been removed previously 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.
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”. Mr Gulen strongly denies any coup links and insists his movement is a peaceful organisation.
Human rights defenders including Amnesty International have lambasted the purges as arbitrary but Turkey says they are necessary to remove the Gulen movement’s infiltration of state bodies.
Earlier this year, the government said more than 77,000 people had been arrested over alleged links to Mr Gulen.
Turkish authorities had already dismissed around 160,000 civil servants since the failed military intervention, the UN human rights office said in March.
Among those detained, more than 50,000 have been formally charged and kept in jail during their trials.