‘The coup is a gift from God’: Erdogan uses botched rebellion to start purge – including arresting 3,000 secular judges – to forge radical new Turkey after urging Islamists to stay on the streets

Erdogan

Erdogan

Turkish president Recep Erdogan has described Friday’s attempted coup as a ‘gift from God’ as it will allow him to ‘cleanse’ the army.

The hard-line Islamist leader managed to cling onto power after making a dramatic appeal over FaceTime for his supporters to confront the military who attempted to seize strategic locations in Istanbul and Ankara.
Erdogan, who was in Marmaris on the Mediterranean coast at the time rang a journalist who put him live on air to make his dramatic appeal for support.

After returning to Istanbul overnight on the Turkish Government Gulfstream IV jet, Erdogan addressed jubilant followers as his security forces launched their purge on elements accused of disloyalty.

Erdogan made a brief public appearance amid a phalanx of heavily-armed bodyguards, he said: ‘They will pay a heavy price for this. This uprising is a gift from God to us because this will be a reason to cleanse our army.’
At least 265 people were killed in clashes between the armed forces and police. Scores of civilians were among the dead.

Rebel leader General Erdal Ozturk, who commands armed forces in Istanbul has been arrested and charged with treason. The state-run news agency Anadolu said the commander of the Second Army, which guards the borders with Iraq, Syria and Iran has also been detained. Many soldiers who participated in the coup have been beaten up by Erdogan’s supporters.

The President accused the plotters of being part of a conspiracy led by his former ally Fethullah Gulen, who is based in Pennsylvania. The US-based preacher accused Erdogan of staging the coup himself to justify his purge.

In his address to his fanatical following, he revealed how he was almost assassinated while on holiday. He said: ‘They bombed places I had departed from right after I was gone. They probably thought we were still there.’

Military tanks were stopped by supporters from occupying Ataturk airport in Istanbul after civilians lay down in the road to prevent them passing.

Data on Flight Radar 24 showed Erdogan’s jet circling for more than 30 minutes south of Istanbul until it was safe for the aircraft to approach the airport.

After he emerged from the jet, he announced the coup was over before branding the rebel soldiers as ‘traitors’.

Turkish officials claimed some of the plotters were based in Incirlik air base in the south east of the country from where the US military is conducting bombing missions against ISIS in northern Syria.

Tens of thousands of supporters of the regime gathered in cities across Turkey with Prime Minister Binali Yildirim claiming those behind the coup ‘will receive every punishment they deserve’.

He and Erdogan have indicted laws banning the death penalty could be repealed so those involved in the coup could be executed.

Eight members of the coup fled to Greece on a stolen Blackhawk helicopter. Greek PM Alexis Tsipras said the eight men’s asylum applications would be dealt with ‘quickly.

Soner Cagaptay, director of the Turkish research at The Washington Institute said Erdogan has been strengthened by the coup.

He said the president was now a ‘sort of mythical figure’. Cagaptay said: ‘It will allow him (Erdogan) to crack down on liberty and freedom of association, assembly, expression and media in ways that we haven’t seen before and find strong public support within the country.’

Fadi Hakura, a Turkey expert at the Chatham House think tank in London, said the attempted coup appeared to have been ‘carried out by lower-ranking officers’.

‘Their main gripe seems to have been President Erdogan’s attempt to transform his office into a powerful and centralised executive presidency. In the short term, this failed coup plot will strengthen President Erdogan.’

The President made his triumphant return back to Istanbul after his forces quelled the coup on Friday evening, as he warned that the members of the military behind the plot to oust him would pay a ‘heavy price for their treason’.
Prime Minister Binali Yildirim said that, while the death penalty was abolished in Turkey in 2004, the country may consider legal changes to deter any such coup happening again.

The Greek police ministry said a Turkish military helicopter landed in Greece this morning and eight men on board, thought to be senior coup plotters, have requested political asylum. Turkey has asked for the men, made up of seven soldiers and one civilian, to be extradited back to the country.

The rebel army faction – who call themselves the ‘Peace Council’ – said they were trying to overthrow the government to ‘protect human rights’ and restore democracy from Erdogan’s Justice and Development Party, AKP, which has repeatedly faced criticism from human rights groups and Western allies over its brutal crackdowns on anti-government protesters.

However, Erdogan has blamed his old scapegoat, Fethullah Gulen for orchestrating the uprising. Muslim cleric Gulen, the president’s rival who lives in self-imposed exile in Pennsylvania, U.S. as the head of a billion dollar religious movement, has often been blamed for political unrest in Turkey.

The five hours of chaos began when two busloads of soldiers burst into the headquarters of the state-run TRT news agency, taking news off the air and replacing it with a stream of weather forecasts.

After launching the coup, the Turkish military imposed a curfew on civilians telling them to stay in their homes, but Erdogan called on supporters to ignore the order and take to the streets, which is thought to have caused the army to relinquish control.

Turkey’s top general Hulusi Akar was taken hostage at the military headquarters in the capital Ankara after an attempt to bring down the government, but was rescued during the night.

One military official, Navy Fleet Commander Admiral Veysel Kosele, is currently unaccounted for and it is unknown whether or not he was part of the coup against President Erdogan.

Turkey’s state-run news agency said five warships which reportedly set sail during the attempted coup have returned to their military port in northwest Turkey, but it is unclear whether or not the Admiral was abroad one of the ships.
After the uprising was crushed in the early hours of Saturday morning, Erdogan told the gathered masses at Ataturk Airport that those loyal to Gulen had ‘penetrated the Armed Forces and the police, among other government agencies, over the past 40 years’.

‘What is being perpetrated is a rebellion and a treason,’ Erdogan said. ‘They will pay a heavy price for their treason to Turkey.’

Up to 100 rebel soldiers surrendered on Bosphorus Bridge after their failed uprising. At least 2,863 connected have been arrested in connection with the dramatic coup which lasted approximately five hours.

New British foreign secretary Boris Johnson said on Twitter that he has spoken to Turkish counterpart Mevlut Cavusoglu following the attempted military coup, adding: ‘I underlined UK support for the democratic elected government and institutions.’

Explosions and gunfire erupted in Istanbul and Ankara on Friday night during the coup which killed at least 250 people in the army’s bid to overthrow the Islamic government.

Elsewhere troops opened fire on civilians attempting to cross the river Bosporus in Istanbul in protest to the military coup, while a bomb exploded at the parliament building according to the state’s press agency as the security situation in the country becomes more perilous.

Colonel Muharrem Kose reportedly led the Turkish military forces in the uprising.

Kose had recently been kicked out of the army, from his position as head of the military’s legal advisory department, over his links to Gulen. He was killed during the clashes with Erdogan’s supporters, sources report.

As military took to the streets, Erdogan had urged his supporters to ignore a curfew and take back control of the country.

Tanks and armoured personnel carriers tried to seize strategic points in Istanbul and Ankara but were faced down by unarmed civilians who lay down in front of the heavy armour.

Police special forces headquarters was also hit and was razed to the ground. Other witnesses reported attack helicopters firing machine guns in the capital Ankara in a bid to depose the Islamic government.

There were also reports that a Turkish Air Force F-16 had shot down a Sikorsky helicopter over Ankara. The government claimed the jet destroyed the helicopter which had been ‘hijacked by coup plotters’.

In Takism square, around 30 rebel soldiers surrendered following a gun battle with police loyal to Erdogan. A number of F-16 fighter jets had screamed across the square at low level blasting the area with a sonic boom.
During the night, both the civilian government and the military claimed they were in control of the country, with reports of sporadic gunfire and explosions.

In a statement, the army faction said that they took action ‘to reinstall the constitutional order, democracy, human rights and freedoms, to ensure that the rule of law once again reigns in the country, for the law and order to be reinstated’.

The Turkish military has also long seen its role as safeguarding Turkey’s secularist agenda, and has staged numerous coup’s over the last 60 years when it feels the government’s stance is moving too far away from that.

Meanwhile, Erdogan made it clear he believes rival Gulen is behind the attack.

Gulen’s nonprofit organization, the Alliance for Shared Values, denies any involvement and condemned the actions of the Turkish military.

Gulen, 75, was initially a close ally of Erdogan, who rose from the mayor of Istanbul to prime minister before he became president in 2014.

But the two fell out over a massive corruption scandal in 2013 that cost the country $100billion in a campaign thought to be initiated by Gulen’s followers against Erdogan’s closest allies.

Trained as an imam, Fethullah Gulen gained notice in Turkey some 50 years ago, promoting a philosophy that blended a mystical form of Islam with staunch advocacy of democracy, education, science and interfaith dialogue.

Erdogan has long accused Gulen of plotting to overthrow the officially secular government from a gated 26-acre compound in Pennsylvania’s Pocono Mountains, which has a population of about 1,100.

The President, who was on vacation in the resort town of Marmaris when the coup began, issued a statement to CNN tonight referring to a ‘parallel structure’ behind the coup, a reference to Gulen’s followers.