Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan declared a state of emergency on Wednesday as he widened a crackdown against thousands of members of the security forces, judiciary, civil service and academia after a failed military coup.
Erdogan said the state of emergency, lasting three months, would allow his government to take swift and decisive measures against supporters of the coup and was allowed under the constitution.
Emergency rule, which would take effect after it is published in Turkey’s official gazette, would allow the president and cabinet to bypass parliament in passing new laws and to limit or suspend rights and freedoms as they deem necessary.
Erdogan made the announcement during a live television broadcast in front of his government ministers after a nearly five-hour meeting of the National Security Council.
“The aim of the declaration of the state of emergency is to be able to take fast and effective steps against this threat against democracy, the rule of law and rights and freedoms of our citizens,” Erdogan said.
He also pointedly rebuffed criticism from Western governments that have accused him of going too far in efforts to neutralize suspected opponents. About 60,000 soldiers, police, judges, civil servants and teachers have been suspended, detained or are under investigation since Friday’s military coup attempt.
The failed putsch and the purge that followed have unsettled the country of 80 million, a NATO member bordering Syria, Iraq and Iran and Western ally in the fight against Islamic State.
Before announcing the state of emergency, Erdogan said the sweep was not yet over and that he believed foreign countries might have been involved in the attempt to overthrow him.
Speaking through an interpreter in an interview with broadcaster Al Jazeera, Erdogan dismissed suggestions that he was becoming authoritarian and that Turkish democracy was under threat.
“We will remain within a democratic parliamentary system. We will never step away from it,” he said.
Academics were banned from traveling abroad on Wednesday in what a Turkish official said was a temporary measure to prevent the risk of alleged coup plotters at universities from fleeing. TRT state television said 95 academics had been removed from their posts at Istanbul University alone.
Erdogan blames a network of followers of an exiled US-based cleric, Fethullah Gulen, for Friday night’s attempted coup, in which more than 230 people were killed and hundreds more wounded as soldiers commandeered fighter jets, military helicopters and tanks in a failed effort to overthrow the government.
Erdogan, who has led Turkey as prime minister or president since 2003, has vowed to clean the “virus” responsible for the plot from all state institutions.
Around a third of Turkey’s roughly 360 serving generals have been detained since the coup attempt, a second senior official said, with 99 charged pending trial and 14 more being held.
The Defence Ministry is investigating all military judges and prosecutors, and has suspended 262 of them, broadcaster NTV reported, while 900 police officers in the capital, Ankara, were also suspended on Wednesday. The purge also extended to civil servants in the environment and sports ministries.