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20-Jul-2018 10:36 

Turkish ministers knew about the 2016 coup attempt - former AKP deputy

The Turkish ministers were told there would be a coup attempt on July 15, 2016, 15 to 20 days beforehand, but did not take the warnings seriously, Mehmet Metiner, a former member of parliament for the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP), told the pro-government Star newspaper.

Metiner said there would be new attempts to overthrow President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, if the government failed to learn lessons from 2016. 

“When someone told ministers and our officials within security-intelligence bureaucracy 15 to 20 days before the coup attempt that there would be a coup, those allegations were not taken seriously. Even on the night of the July 15, in the beginning many of us did not think it was a coup attempt,” Metiner said. 

Metiner said it was time to reflect on those mistakes, given the failures of both intelligence agencies and top ranking generals to identify the government’s real friends and enemies.

The Turkish government blames the secretive Gülen movement for the coup. The movement was once allied to the AKP, but the two wings of Turkish Islamism fell out when Gülenist prosecutors charged ministers and their relatives with corruption in 2013.

Metiner accused some AKP parliamentarians of backing the corruption investigations and complaining when the government dismissed the prosecutors and judges in the case. 

“If we forget those who adopt this discourse of victimhood, we might always find ourselves facing new threats,” Metiner said. Source


Turkish-funded mosques in the United States centres for political mobilisation - academic

Mosques funded by Turkey in the United States are not apolitical as Ankara claims but are used for religious and political radicalisation, Columbia University’s Director for the Programme on Peace-Building and Rights told Fox News. “These mosques are not places of worship,” David L. Phillips said. “They are centres for political mobilisation functioning like madrasas, distorting Islam and radicalising youth.”

One prominent recent investment, the broadcaster said, was a $110-million worship centre in Lanham, Maryland, a place neighbouring Washington D.C. There have been allegations across Europe that Turkish government-funded mosques are being used as intelligence-gathering stations, with potential enemies of the Turkish state identified and reported on, Fox said.

However, the Turkish government has denied the accusations, saying they are part of a smear campaign by the Gülen movement, an Islamic sect that over the past few years has gone from being government allies to being accused by the government of perpetrating a 2016 failed coup attempt. Source

EU reaction mixed as Turkey lifts state of emergency

The European Union welcomed Turkey’s lifting of the two-year state of emergency on July 19, but voiced fears it could be offset by other restrictive legislative measures.

In a statement, the EU reminded President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s government that “concrete and lasting improvements” on the rule of law were essential for closer ties between Brussels and Ankara, which is in talks to join the bloc.

“The end of the state of emergency in place in Turkey since the coup attempt of 2016 is a welcome step,” said the European External Action Service, the EU’s diplomatic arm.

“We believe the adoption of new legislative proposals granting extraordinary powers to the authorities and retaining several restrictive elements of the state of emergency would dampen any positive effect of its termination,” it added. Read the full article

Former Turkish prime minister warns of serious crisis risk

Tansu Çiller, a former prime minister of Turkey, warned of a crisis in the corporate sector after some large companies began talks with banks to restructure their loans.

“I see a very serious expectation of a crisis in the private sector,” Çiller said , according to Turkish columnist Abdulkadir Selvi.

Çiller, who accompanied Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan on the campaign trail as he successfully fought re-election on June 24, said the new, enhanced presidential system for Turkey would help overcome the impending crisis.

Turkish corporates have amassed more than $220 billion in unhedged foreign currency debt, taking advantage of a flow of cheap money to emerging markets following the global financial crisis of 2008. The debt has become more expensive to repay after the lira slumped against the dollar. It has lost more than 20 percent in value this year to trade at about 4.84 per dollar. It was as strong as 1.15 against the U.S. currency before the crisis struck.

Companies including Doğuş Group, owned by Turkish billionaire Ferit Şahenk, have applied to banks to restructure billions of dollars in loans they had amassed for buyouts and investments in real estate, services and energy. Saudi Oger, the Saudi telecommunications company, has defaulted on almost $5 billion of debt owed by phone company Turk Telekom, prompting banks to seize it and place it in a special purpose vehicle earlier this month.

Çiller, a professor of economics, ruled Turkey as prime minister between 1993 and 1996. During her tenure, large-scale capital flight from Turkey due to lack of confidence in her budget deficit targets led to the almost complete collapse of the lira and the central bank's foreign currency reserves.

Erdoğan is a strong leader and will overcome Turkey's economic problems, helped by the presidential system introduced following the elections, Çiller said, according to Selvi. Source


Army marks 44th anniversary of Cyprus peace op

Turkish Armed Forces on Friday marked the 44th anniversary of Turkey’s military operation conducted to protect northern Cyprus’s Turkish population. Friday marks July 20 Peace and Freedom Day in the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus, which commemorates Turkey’s ‘Cyprus Peace Operation’ -- a huge military intervention to protect Turkish Cypriots from inter-communal violence which struck the island in 1974.

In a Twitter post, the military wrote: “We commemorate our martyrs and veterans with mercy and gratitude on the 44th anniversary of Cyprus’s Happy Peace Operation.” It also released a video showing the operation conducted 44 years ago.

Cyprus has been divided since 1974 when a Greek Cypriot coup was followed by violence against the island's Turks and Ankara's intervention as a guarantor power. The latest attempt to reunify the long-divided Mediterranean island ended in failure in 2017 after two years of negotiations. Source

British court seizes passport of FETO coup bid suspect

Judging him a flight risk, a British court on Thursday confiscated the passport of a fugitive Turkish businessman wanted for involvement in the July 2016 defeated coup in Turkey. The passport of Hamdi Akin Ipek, the former head of Koza Ipek Holding, was confiscated to prevent him from leaving the U.K. during his judicial process.

Turkey’s extradition request for Ipek with the approval of the British Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) was previously submitted to British authorities. After his arrest this May, Ipek was released on £50,000 ($64,000) bail. In Britain, extradition requests are referred to the court with the FCO’s approval.

If the court finds the arrest warrant and the extradition request proper, the court’s decision is also implemented with FCO approval. Ipek, accused of attempting to overthrow Turkey’s government and violate the Constitution, faces up to two aggravated life sentences if convicted. He is also facing 132 years in prison for setting up an armed terror group, military and political espionage, forging documents, and laundering money. Source

President to make decisions alone, dissenters will be fired - Erdoğan’s top adviser

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan will decide on how to run the country singlehandedly under the country’s new system of government, and any personnel who do not fit in will be immediately replaced, according to Mehmet Uçum, one of the president’s chief advisers.

The new system would make it possible for issues that had been held up under the old parliamentary system to be resolved in the space of hours through Erdoğan’s direct intervention, Uçum told journalist Hande Fırat of Hürriyet newspaper.

The system that would make this possible will likely raise the hackles of the opposition, however, as it places full responsibility for the country’s administration on Erdoğan’s shoulders, according to Uçum.

The president’s adviser outlined the workings of a system in which political boards and institutions would serve in only an advisory capacity, passing their analyses up to the president for consideration.

“To whom will all of these (dossiers) be sent? To the president. Who will receive the drafts prepared by political boards? The president. Why does the president need to make the decisions on his own? Because under the new system, the president is the person who holds political responsibility,” said Uçum.

Another advantage of amassing so much authority under the president is that it reduces the danger of conflicts within government because it simply removes room for dissent, said Uçum.

“If any kind of discord does arise, then this won’t turn into a systemic problem, but one of implementation. What does this mean? The sources of discord can be removed overnight, and replaced with people who can do the job properly,” Uçum said.

While Uçum was effusive that the system would become an “inspiration” to other countries, other observers were less enthusiastic. Duke University professor Timur Karan tweeted that such a system “assumes the president is omniscient.” Source


Six US senators seek to restrict loans to Turkey over 'pastor' ruling

Six U.S. senators introduced bipartisan legislation on July 19 to restrict loans from international financial institutions to Turkey "until the Turkish government ends the unjust detention of U.S. citizens", a senate committee statement said.

The move followed a Turkish court decision on Wednesday to keep U.S. pastor Andrew Brunson in jail during his trial on terrorism and spying charges, a case that has deepened a rift with NATO ally Washington.

The bill, dubbed the Turkey International Financial Institutions Act, directs the U.S. executive of the World Bank and European Bank for Reconstruction and Development to oppose future loans, except for humanitarian purposes, to Turkey, the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations statement said.

It said the opposition should continue until Turkey is "no longer arbitrarily detaining or denying freedom of movement to United States citizens (including dual citizens) or locally employed staff members of the United States mission to Turkey." Read the full article

Erdoğan makes legal move against opposition leader, 72 MPs

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has asked prosecutors to start legal proceedings against Republican People’s Party (CHP) leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu and 72 of his parliamentary deputies on charges of insulting the president.

The move follows a decision by the Ankara prosecutor’s office to investigate Kılıçdaroğlu for the offence, Hürriyet newspaper and other Turkish media reported on Wednesday. The 73 politicians allegedly shared a cartoon of Erdoğan on social media that was first held up by students of the Middle East Technical University (METU) at a recent protest against Erdoğan.

It is possible that a criminal case against 73 of the CHP’s 144 politicians in the 600-member assembly, amounting to a simple majority of its MPS, could result in their immunities from prosecution being lifted by Erdoğan’s party and its political allies, meaning they would be banished from the assembly if found guilty by the courts.

Mahir Unal, spokesman for the governing Justice and Development Party (AKP) was scathing in his remarks for Kılıçdaroğlu and the CHP earlier on Wednesday saying they were siding with terrorists. The insults against Erdogan had to stop as the country was completely fed up with them, he said.

The crime of insulting the president in the course of his duties carries a jail term of between one and three years. tems of two years or less are often reduced by the courts to a suspended sentence and/or a fine.

The case comes at a time when the CHP is criticising an AKP move to tighten anti-terrorism laws as the government lifts a state of emergency in the country, in place since a failed military coup in July 2016. The measures taken under emergency rule have been slammed by the European Union, the United States and human rights groups for their anti-democratic nature. The draft legislation means some of the measures allowed under the state of emergency will continue to be implemented.

Kılıçdaroğlu has repeatedly lambasted Erdoğan for being a dictator and an authoritarian, prompting Erdoğan to file and win a series of civil suits for insult.

Erdoğan’s opponents say he is using the measures taken under emergency rule, which have included locking up deputies of the pro-Kurdish People’s Democratic Party (HDP) and tens of thousands of civil servants, to strengthen his authoritarian hold on the country and eradicate all political dissent.  

The AKP says the sanctions are needed to protect democracy as the country battles with outlawed groups including the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) and the Fethullah Gülen movement, which Turkey blames for orchestrating the coup attempt.

The CHP has also angered Erdogan after many of its supporters voted for the HDP in parliamentary elections on June 24, held concurrently with a presidential vote. The HDP passed the minimum 10 percent voter threshold required to win seats in the assembly, meaning the AKP now needs the backing of its ultranationalist allies, the Nationalist Action Party (MHP), to pass legislation.  

Erdoğan assumed enhanced presidential powers last Monday, following his inauguration. He will rule until 2023, Turkey's centeneary year, when fresh elections are due to be held. Erdoğan has established a presidential cabinet after the role of prime minister was abolished. He has also shrunk the number of ministers and put his son-in-law, Berat Albayrak, in charge of the Treasury and Finance Ministry. Source


Turkey urges US not to delay extradition of Gülen

Hours after US President Donald Trump’s call on Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan to release an American pastor, Turkish Foreign Ministry stated that they urged Americans to not delay matters pertaining to the Turkish Islamic scholar Fethullah Gülen who lives in the US.

Turkish Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Hami Aksoy confirmed Thursday that Turkey had urged the US to not delay matters pertaining to the Fetö, a derogatory term coined by ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) to refer to Fethullah Gülen and the faith based Gülen movement, during a working group meeting on July 13 in Ankara.

Officials from the U.S. State Department and Department of Justice held talks with Turkish officials at the Foreign Ministry. The US delegation met with prosecutors and judges handling the trials of Gülen movement members. Read the full article

Turkish court rules to keep American pastor behind bars

A Turkish court on Wednesday ruled to keep in custody American pastor Andrew Brunson, who was jailed in October 2016 in Turkey on espionage and terror charges, setting the next hearing for Oct. 12, Cumhuriyet reported.

The trial of Brunson, who faces up to 35 years in prison on terror and espionage charges, resumed in Aliağa, north of İzmir, on Wednesday.

The US chargé d’affaires in Turkey said on Wednesday he was disappointed by the decision to keep the American pastor in jail while his trial on terrorism and spying charges continues, Reuters reported. Philip Kosnett told reporters he was concerned about the status of the pastor and other Americans detained in Turkey and that he did not see any indication that Brunson was guilty of any sort of criminal activity. Read the full article

Turkish opposition leader questions government handling of coup

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and his government knew in advance about the July 2016 coup attempt and did nothing to stop it, opposition Republican People’s Party leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu said in a speech on Tuesday.

The coup attempt, according to number of indictments released by various prosecutor offices around Turkey, was apparently carried out by members of a religious sect, the Gülen movement, assisted by others inside the military, with five civilian members of the movement led by the fugitive Adil Öksüz being present at the airbase from which the attempt was launched on the night of the coup.

“Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has the blood of 250 people on his collar,” Kılıçdaroğlu said, adding that Erdoğan had ordered Turkey’s head of intelligence and military chief of staff not to give evidence to the commission investigating the coup, and neither had he given evidence himself.

“Did you think I wouldn’t ask why the prosecutor (assigned to investigate) was removed from his duties? If you (Erdoğan) speak of putschists, you are the number one putschist!”

Government prosecutors were told of the coup, along with the names of the participants who led it, three months in advance by a man named Abdullah Kurt, Kılıçdaroğlu said, and nothing was done about it because the government wanted the attempt to occur. In addition, the government knew of the location and timing of the meetings of the coup plotters and likely tapped the building, he said.

“Erdoğan also knew there would be a coup, and he hid in Marmaris,” Kılıçdaroğlu said, referring to Erdoğan’s location on the south coast of Turkey in advance of a charity football match scheduled for the next day.

He added that a prime ministerial aide, Ali İhsan Sarıkoca, had gone to talk with Adil Öksüz after the coup and before his release from detention, and that what they had talked about was still unclear.

The coup attempt had then been used as the pretences for the transition to a one-man regime under a state of emergency, Kılıçdaroğlu said.

Kılıçdaroğlu also said that ''the neither the referendum in 2017's April, nor the 24 Jun elections are legitimate.'' Source


Boat carrying 160 migrants sinks off Turkish Cyprus, at least 19 dead

At least 19 migrants died after the boat carrying them capsized off Turkish Cypriot coast on July 18. The coast guards of Turkey and Turkish Cyprus rushed to the scene and saved 103 of the migrants, private broadcaster CNN Türk reported.

Almost 25 are reported missing. Rescued people have been taken to Turkey's southern province of Mersin and they were placed at a high-school dormitory. One of the survivors was hospitalized in the Turkish Cypriot city of Girne whereas 36 others, including a child, were hospitalized in Mersin's district of Silifke. Bodies of 19 dead migrants were sent to Turkey's southern province of Adana for autopsy.

Most of the migrants were Syrian nationals, reports said. The boat was believed to be heading toward west in the north of the island. According to the UN's International Organization for Migration, more than 1,400 illegal migrants have died in the Mediterranean since the beginning of 2018. Source

Venezuela says it is refining gold in Turkey following sanctions

Venezuela’s central bank this year began refining gold in Turkey following a wave of international sanctions that have left it unwilling to carry out such operations in Switzerland, the country’s mining minister said on July 18.

The central bank for several years has been buying gold from small miners in the south of the country and refining it to be used as monetary gold to shore up its international reserves that have tumbled as the country’s socialist economy implodes.

“This is an agreement established with Turkey and the Venezuelan central bank,” said Victor Cano in a press conference. “It’s being done by allied countries because imagine (what would happen) if we sent gold to Switzerland and we are told that it has to stay there because of sanctions.”

He did not say which Turkish companies were involved or how much had been refined there, but said the government had purchased 9.1 tonnes of gold from small miners this year. Read the full article

Trump calls on Erdoğan to release jailed American pastor Brunson

U.S. President Donald Trump on July 19 urged his Turkish opposite Recep Tayyip Erdoğanon Twitter to help release an American pastor kept behind bars in Turkey since October 2017. “A total disgrace that Turkey will not release a respected U.S. Pastor, Andrew Brunson, from prison. He has been held hostage far too long,” Trump said.

“[Turkish President] Recep Tayyip Erdoğan should do something to free this wonderful Christian husband & father. He has done nothing wrong, and his family needs him!” he added. On July 18, a court in Turkey’s Aegean province of İzmir ruled that Brunson, an American pastor being tried on terrorism and spying charges, will be kept in jail pending trial.

The Second High Penal Court in İzmir decided to continue listening to the testimonies of witnesses in the next hearing on Oct. 12. Brunson, a Christian pastor from North Carolina who has lived in Turkey for more than two decades, was indicted on charges of having links with the Fethullahist Terror Organization (FETÖ), which Ankara blames for the failed 2016 coup attempt, as well the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK). Source

Turkish prosecutors investigate opposition leader for sharing cartoon

Turkish prosecutors are investigating the leader of the main opposition party to decide whether to charge him with insulting the president for sharing a cartoon showing President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan as a variety of animals in solidarity with students arrested for putting the image on a banner at their graduation, secularist newspaper Sözcü said .

Thirteen years ago, a court dismissed charges that the cartoon, entitled “The World of Tayyips”, insulted Erdoğan by depicting the then-prime minister as a number of animals. The cartoon was drawn in response to Erdoğan suing another cartoonist who depicted him as a cat getting caught up in a ball of string.

Three students at the prestigious Middle East Technical University held up the cartoon on a banner at their 2018 graduation ceremony. Police detained them on July 7 and they have been jailed ever since. Another person accused of printing the banner was also detained. Source

Anti-terror bill keeps some national emergency provisions for three more years

A new “anti-terror” bill will bolster the powers of Turkish authorities in detaining suspects and imposing public order even after the current two-year state of emergency ends.

The ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) submitted an amendment to existing laws to parliament on July 16 to deal with the “fight against terror” after the state of emergency is lifted.

The draft legislation envisages to keep some measures under the state of emergency law up to three more years. The draft bill abolishes martial law in accordance with the new constitution.

A provisional article will be added to the anti-terror law. Detention times for offenses committed against state integrity, organized crime, and terrorist crimes will be implemented differently in the upcoming three years.

Under the proposed new legislation, a suspect can be held without charge for 48 hours or up to four days in the case of collective offenses. But this period could be extended twice maximum, or up to 12 days, if there is difficulty in collecting evidence or if the case is deemed to be particularly voluminous.

Governors will be able to prohibit individuals exiting and entering a defined area for 15 days on security grounds where the public order or safety has deteriorated or there are serious indications that will deteriorate in such a way that will stop or divert daily life. Governors will be able to prohibit carrying and transporting all kinds of weapons and ammunition, even if they are licensed.

For the period of three years, officials of the Turkish Armed Forces (TSK), police department, gendarmerie, public servant and workers who have been assessed as members of or linked to terrorist organizations, structures, or groups that the National Security Council has determined as carrying out actions against the national security of the state will be dismissed from their profession.

Those dismissed will not be employed again in the public service, or not be assigned directly or indirectly.

If the court rules for their return to duty, they will be collected in a “pool” and assigned to “research centers” under the Defense Ministry and Interior Ministry.

or three more years, the state will continue to appoint trustees for terrorism-related institutions and companies. Gun licenses and passports of those dismissed or suspended from duty will be canceled. The Interior Ministry will be able to cancel passports of their spouses as well.

The state of emergency, imposed in the wake of the July 2016 failed coup, widely believed to have been orchestrated by United States-based preacher Fethullah Gülen’s network, has been extended seven times and thousands have been arrested.

Turkish authorities have said no new extension will be sought for the state of emergency as it is due to end after midnight on July 18. Source


Turkish government submits paid military exemption bill

The ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) has submitted a paid military servicemotion to Turkish Parliament in a united bill, said AKP Group Deputy Chair Bülent Turan. The motion requires to be at least 25 years of age, to pay 15,000 Turkish Liras, and to serve up to 28 days of military service, he said. 

Ahead of the June 24 elections, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan had signaled the government may introduce the option for paid military service exemption once again. “After the election, we will sit down with the Chief of General Staff and Defense Minister and if they say this is appropriate, if they deem it necessary, then we will pave the way [for such a measure] without delay,” he said earlier.

Over 400,000 people who have deserted their military service and over 2.5 million youth who have deferred their military service in Turkey have been awaiting the regulation. The government has introduced paid military exemption four times in Turkey where all male citizens between 20 to 41 years of age are required to perform mandatory military service (with some exceptions such as handicapped, mentally ill, or unhealthy people). Source

2 Years of July 15 Coup Attempt with Figures, Reports

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