ISTANBUL - Police raided Istanbul’s main courthouses as a crackdown continues in the aftermath of last month’s failed coup attempt. The purge is straining relations with Western allies, who Turkish officials say appear more concerned by the crackdown than the failed coup that killed 240 people.
Police sealed off all entrances to three of Istanbul’s main courthouses as security forces sought to arrest more than 170 members of the judiciary.
Offices of the courthouses were searched, and dozens of people were detained. Those held are accused of being followers of the U.S.-based Turkish cleric Fethullah Gulen, who prosecutors claim were behind the last month’s coup attempt. Gulen denies any involvement in July’s attempted military take over.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan Sunday pledged to root out all those involved with the cleric.
"It is our binding duty to bring traitors to account and eradicate FETÖ," he said.
FETO is the acronym for “Fethullah Terrorist Organization.”
Last week arrest warrants were issued for 648 judges and prosecutors. Thousands of other judiciary members have been suspended.
On Sunday, a wanted chief prosecutor was caught trying to enter Syria. Ayse Sozen Usluer, Erdogan’s head of international relations, says they are fighting an organization, which has been infiltrating the state for decades.
“Even it [FETO] goes back to the years of 1980s," said Usluer. "It is known that it is present, and its actions within the state institutions are already known. And this is an organization and they are active in different institutions of the state.”
Over 60,000 civil servants have been dismissed from their posts and nearly 18,000 people have been arrested since the failed coup.
Last month, President Erdogan declared emergency rule, allowing him to rule by decree.
Political columnist Semih Idiz, of Turkey’s Cumhuriyet Newspaper and Al Monitor website says concerns can only grow as the crackdown intensifies.
“There is the risk that this environment, (emergency rule) can be used in excess of what the government should be going after," said Idiz. "And the fact we have this vast number, people either expelled or under arrest does not really inspire much confidence in that respect.”
Turkey’s Western allies, who are calling for proportionality in the aftermath of the coup, are increasingly voicing such concerns.
But presidential advisor Usluer, says such criticism fails to appreciate the seriousness of the threat faced by Turkish democracy.
“Our western allies or our friends are mostly focusing on what will happen in Turkey next," said Usluer. "But this is sad. What happened in Turkey was very important. This was one of the most dangerous acts of treason Turkey ever faced.”
In an address Sunday, Erdogan declared the country had profoundly changed since the coup attempt and the way he would rule would change. Observers say building a political consensus offers the best chance for Turkey to get out of the present turmoil. But how the ongoing crackdown develops could ultimately determine whether such a consensus can be sustained.