WASHINGTON - U.S. President Barack Obama says the U.S. had no knowledge of, or involvement in, last week's coup attempt in Turkey.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has accused U.S.-based Muslim cleric Fethullah Gulen or his followers of being behind the failed bid to take over the Turkish government July 15.
Obama said Friday that any reports that the United States was involved in the planning for the attack are "unequivocally false." He said he told President Erdogan that, earlier this week in a telephone conversation.
Obama also said the U.S. government hopes that as details become clear, "there is not an overreaction that could in some fashion lead to curtailment of civil liberties" or a crackdown on the political opposition or on journalists voicing concerns about the government.
He also said that Turkey's request for the cleric's extradition from his home-in-exile, in the U.S. state of Pennsylvania, must go through the U.S. legal process and would only be granted if Ankara can prove Gulen was behind the coup.
During a Washington press conference Friday, Turkish Ambassador to the U.S., Serdar K?l?ç, said his country is working with the U.S. Justice Department to finalize his nation's request for Gulen's extradition "in a way commensurate with the time-tested alliance relationship between the two countries.”
K?l?ç said much of the documentation Ankara has provided comes from tens of thousands of pages of evidence developed in an investigation initiated by the Turkish government in 2013.
He also pointed to U.S. diplomatic cables leaked on WikiLeaks to show that U.S. officials should have been well aware of the extent to which Gulenists had infiltrated the Turkish government.
“We are trying to communicate to our partners and allies the threat posed by this terrorist organization to the Turkish state structure and the Turkish democracy," he said. “It should have been listened to more closely.”
Anti-American sentiment has been running high in Turkey since the coup attempt amid widespread suggestions that the United States had a hand in the coup. A VOA reporter in Istanbul has had, on at least two occasions, to retreat from an angry crowd.
Turkish officials say they have now detained 10,400 people in connection with the attempted coup, including 6,000 military personnel, and that 4,060 have been arrested. By some estimates, almost 50,000 public officials, including judges and academics, have been suspended or ordered to resign.
The Turkish officials said some of those arrested have already confessed the plot was orchestrated by Gulen himself.
Turkey’s ambassador to the U.S. also said it was possible more arrests could be forthcoming as a result of the current purge.
““It should go to the extent possible until the point where we will ensure that no attempt will again be orchestrated against the Turkish democracy,” K?l?ç said during the briefing at the Turkish Embassy.
“The figures are not massive for the time being,” he said. “If 10,000 people confess that they have some relationship with the terrorist organization or took part in the military coup, then the numbers will be higher.
State of emergency
On Thursday, Turkey said it would suspend the European Convention on Human Rights during the three-month state of emergency it declared to purge perpetrators of last week's failed coup.
Human Right Watch sounded alarm Friday about the state of emergency, saying, “There are clear signs that the government is ready to crack down more broadly – combined with far more scope for unchecked executive action. The group’s director for Turkey, Emma Sinclair-Webb, called that "an alarming prospect.”
“It risks further undermining democracy by providing a legal – if not justifiable – basis for a crackdown on rights,” said Sinclair-Webb. It gives the government the means to intensify its campaign against its critics.
Turkish authorities “are erasing the distinction between criminal activity and sympathies for a religious movement the government accuses of orchestrating the coup,” HRW said.
Deputy Prime Minister Numan Kurtulmas said Turkey would take steps "like France has done under Article 15 of the convention" that allow signatories to abrogate from its obligations during times of war or public emergencies.
"The state of emergency will give the government a good opportunity to fight against coup plotters and clean the state coffers fully of members of the Gulenist organization," Kurtulmas was quotes as saying by the Hurriyet news agency.
Turkish lawmakers are expected to approve President Erdogan's call for a three-month state of emergency in a move that paves the way for further purging of his opponents, following Friday's failed attempt to topple him and his government.
Erdogan announced the state of emergency in a televised address late Wednesday, following meetings with his national security council and Cabinet.
Erdogan said the state of emergency’s purpose is “to be able to take the most efficient steps to return to democracy and rule of law.” The Turkish leader said the armed forces would not take control of the country during this time.
Hundreds of Erdogan supporters filled public venues across Turkey, including Istanbul’s Taksim Square, where his statement was carried live on big screens. The announcement of the state of emergency drew applause from the crowd.
The declaration allows Erdogan to expand an already massive crackdown that observers say primarily targets members of a spiritual movement led by Fethullah Gulen, a former imam who has been living in the United States for the past 17 years.
Turkish state media reports the government has banned all academics from traveling out of Turkey. More than 21,000 employees of the Education Ministry, including more than 1,500 university deans, were suspended Tuesday.
“The lynching has started,” said Beyza Ustun, an official of the Kurdish-dominated, left-wing People’s Democratic Party, reflecting the concern members of Turkey’s minorities have expressed at what they see as a growing threat to their rights.