Since the attempted coup in Turkey this past July, the Turkish government has cracked down on any group it believes has connections to the coup. On October 4, Turkey's Security General Directorate fired 12,801 policemen because of suspected ties to a Muslim cleric living in the United States named Fetullah Gulen. The Turkish government claims Gulen orchestrated the failed coup.
According to the news site UPI, the move amounts to an 18 percent reduction of the Turkish police force. The swift response comes as no surprise after Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said he would seek revenge for “a clear crime of treason.”
In the month following the attempted coup, 70,000 people were placed under investigation and 35,022 were detained, according to CNN. A Turkish state broadcast reported that of those detained, the majority were military officials, including 178 generals.
The Turkish government also arrested 17,740 people for specific charges related to the coup, including more members of the military. The government has also seized military assets such as jets, tanks, and helicopters, and issued arrest warrants for 89 journalists who work at the Zaman newspaper.
According to an official involved in issuing the warrants, “the prosecutors aren't interested in what individual columnists wrote or said. At this point, the reasoning is that prominent employees of Zaman are likely to have intimate knowledge of the Gulen network and as such could benefit the investigation."
Since July, the Turkish government has fired or suspended 81,494 people across almost every government department, including employees in the Ministry of Education, judges and prosecutors, university deans, and transportation officials. According to The New York Times, 2,000 churches, schools, and businesses accused of being linked to Gulen have been shut down.
Turkey wants the United States to extradite Gulen, who has lived in Pennsylvania since 1999, so he can be prosecuted for planning the coup. The U.S. has so far denied this request, asking Turkey to provide more evidence that Gulen was involved.
Various human rights groups, including Amnesty International, have claimed that detainees in Turkish custody face beatings, lack of food and water, and inadequate legal representation. President Erdogan has implied that any detainee found guilty could face the death penalty. Capital punishment for peacetime crimes has been illegal in Turkey since 2002.