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UN Calls on Turkey to Release Post-Coup Attempt Prisoners

United Nations Special Rapporteur David Kaye speaks about the situation of the right to freedom of opinion and expression in Turkey, in Ankara, Turkey, Friday, Nov. 18, 2016.

A United Nations Special Rapporteur said Friday the Turkish government is “imposing draconian measures that limit freedom of expression” and called on the country's leaders to release those held in prison for exercising their rights.

Envoy David Kaye acknowledged that Turkey had a duty to its citizens to keep them safe after the failed July coup attempt, but said the government had gone too far in jailing journalists and others, and the action will “generate polarization and long-term instability.”

“The measures are not only drastic and disproportionate, but they lack any form of transparency," he said in a statement. "As with media professionals, the government accuses people of serious crimes, but without presenting evidence, without due process and without any form of transparency.”

Thousands removed from jobs

Kaye said he hopes to work with the Turkish government to help protect the rights of Turkish citizens and improve legal procedures in the country.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has engaged in a crackdown on journalists, academics, military and civilian government employees, accusing them of participating in the coup attempt.

More than 100,000 people have been removed from their jobs since government forces blocked the coup attempt. More than 35,000 others, including military officers and opposition politicians, have been arrested for suspected collusion with the coup plotters.

“Turkey has maintained a good and open dialogue with various human rights mechanisms,” said Kaye. “I thank the authorities for their openness to engage in frank discussions and I look forward to exchanging information on my concerns."

Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan addresses a group of farmers, in Ankara, Turkey, Monday, Nov. 14, 2016.
Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan addresses a group of farmers, in Ankara, Turkey, Monday, Nov. 14, 2016.

Purges to continue

Erdogan has said that purges will continue until infiltrators seeking to topple his government have been removed from all state institutions.

The Turkish leader has accused U.S.-based Muslim cleric Fetullah Gulen of plotting the coup, and vowed to bring Gulen to justice.

“We are in the process of taking necessary steps so this evil network and the band of murderers actually face justice and take the necessary punishments,” Erdogan said.

Gulen, a former Erdogan ally in self-imposed exile in the U.S. state of Pennsylvania since 1999, has repeatedly denied involvement in the coup attempt.

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