- Associated Press - Tuesday, August 2, 2016

ANKARA, Turkey (AP) - Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan once more blasted unnamed Western countries Tuesday for what he said was support for the attempted coup on July 15 that left more than 270 people dead.

“The West is supporting terrorism and taking sides with coups,” Erdogan said, adding that forces unhappy with Turkey’s rise as a regional power were behind the coup.

“They have actors inside (Turkey) but the scenario of this coup was written abroad,” he said during a speech at an event for foreign investors in Ankara.

Erdogan singled out Germany for criticism, after a court there ruled against allowing him to appear on a video link to address a crowd of about 30,000 supporters and anti-coup demonstrators in Cologne over the weekend.

The president said Turkey had sent Germany more than 4,000 files on what he said were wanted terrorists, but Germany did nothing. However, he said, courts quickly decided against him speaking at the rally.

Erdogan repeated a complaint that no foreign leader had visited Turkey after the failed coup, while France and Belgium received visits in solidarity after terror attacks there.

“Those we considered friends are siding with coup-plotters and terrorists,” the president said.

The government says the coup was instigated by U.S.-based Muslim cleric Fethullah Gulen, a former Erdogan ally who has been living in self-imposed exile in Pennsylvania. Turkey has demanded his extradition, but Washington has asked for evidence of the cleric’s involvement, saying the extradition process must take its course.

Erdogan complained about the request for evidence, saying: “We did not request documents for terrorists that you wanted returned.”

Justice Minister Bekir Bozdag sent a second document to the United States Tuesday seeking Gulen’s arrest, the state-run Anadolu news agency said. The minister said the second letter explained why there was an urgent need for the arrest.

The government has launched a sweeping crackdown on Gulen’s movement, which it characterizes as a terrorist organization and which runs schools, charities and businesses internationally. In Turkey, nearly 70,000 people have been suspended from their jobs on suspicion of being involved in the movement.

“They requested certain information following our first letter; we provided answers to the question ‘why is it urgent,’” Anadolu quoted Bozdag as telling reporters in parliament, adding that Turkey had intelligence indicating Gulen might leave for a third country.

“I hope that the United States decides in Turkey’s favor, in line with democracy and the rule of law, and returns this leader of a terror organization to Turkey,” he said.

The minister said that if Gulen leaves the U.S., it would be with the full knowledge of U.S. authorities.

Part of the crackdown against Gulen’s network has focused on reforming the military, bringing it increasingly under civilian command. About 18,000 people have been detained or arrested, most of them from the military, and authorities have said the purge of those suspected of links to Gulen in the military will continue.

Several countries and rights organizations have expressed concern over the broad scope of the crackdown, and have urged restraint.

But Erdogan insisted the purges of the civil service, military and other sectors were necessary to rout out those responsible for the coup.

“We shall never step back from our decision and give concessions. If we show pity to these murderers, to these coup plotters, we will end up in a pitiful state,” he said.

Prime Minister Binali Yildirim announced plans to shut down two military high courts - the administrative and appeals courts - and said military courts, which deal with disciplinary issues, would be placed under the Defense Ministry’s supervision.

The government has already issued a decree introducing sweeping changes to the military, including giving the president and prime minister the power to issue direct orders to the force commanders.

“These arrangements won’t weaken the Turkish Armed Forces, on the contrary they will strengthen them and prepare them to face all kinds of threats,” Yildirim said in an address to his ruling party legislators. “The armed forces will focus their energies on their fundamental duty.”

Separately, authorities issued 98 new detention warrants, including for military doctors, a senior government official said, on condition of anonymity in line with regulations.

Yildirim said that if the coup had succeeded, “there would have been no constitution, no law, our parliament would have been shut and the political will eradicated. There would have been no trace of free press, freedom of expression.”

“Our state and people came back from the brink and it was our commander in chief Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s unyielding stance that ensured it,” Yildirim said.

____

Becatoros contributed from Istanbul.

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