Erdogan's Personal Guards Among 9,000 Suspended Officers

  • Suspended officers accused of threatening national security
  • Turkey crackdown is one of largest ever on police force

Turkey suspended 9,000 police officers, including more than a dozen tasked with protecting President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his family, extending a crackdown on suspected followers of a U.S.-based cleric who the government blames for orchestrating last year’s attempted coup.

The officers were suspended for ties to the “terrorist network of Fethullah Gulen and for posing a threat to national security,” according to a police statement issued late Wednesday. Some had earlier been assigned to oversee legal probes into suspected Gulenists, it said. The move came several hours after prosecutors ordered the detention of more than 3,000 people, mostly civilians, on suspicion of overseeing a secret structure within the police force.

Turkey has suspended or fired nearly 150,000 people, including thousands of police officers, for links to Gulen, who has repeatedly denied the charges against him. After narrowly winning a critical referendum this month that expanded the president’s powers, Erdogan vowed to remove remnants of Gulen’s followers within the state.

“Turkey has the right to protect itself and also to prosecute those who were behind the failed coup attempt,” NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said Thursday at the start of the informal meeting of European Union defense ministers in Malta. “But that has to take place based on the rule of law, full respect to the rule of law,” he said, according to the NATO website.

Erdogan’s purge has soured Turkey’s relations with its Western allies. A Council of Europe agency put the country on its watch list, saying the crackdown on opponents compromised human rights and the rule of law. EU foreign ministers will discuss Erdogan’s referendum victory and the future of the bloc’s relations with Turkey at an informal meeting in Malta on Friday.

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