- Associated Press - Wednesday, August 3, 2016

ANKARA, Turkey (AP) - Turkey deserves better understanding from European partners about the “outrageous” failed coup, the head of Europe’s top human rights organization said Wednesday, amid complaints from Turkish leaders that Western allies have not shown solidarity with the government.

Thorbjorn Jagland, the head of the Council of Europe, also expressed concerns, however, over Turkey’s large-scale crackdown on people suspected of links to a U.S.-based Muslim cleric accused by Turkey of masterminding the coup and by allegations of mistreatment of suspects in custody.

“We, as many others, have concerns and will be watching this very carefully,” Jagland told The Associated Press in an interview following talks with Turkish leaders.

Jagland was the first high-ranking European official to visit Turkey since the July 15 failed coup, when renegade sections of the military used tanks, jets and helicopters in an attempt to overthrow the government during a night of violence that left more than 270 people dead.

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has blasted Western allies for what he says is a lack of clear support for the government in the wake of the failed putsch. On Wednesday, he accused the West of siding with terrorism and complained that no European leaders had visited Turkey to express solidarity after the coup.

While governments have denounced the coup attempt, they have also expressed concerns about the scope of the ensuing crackdown.

The government says the coup was instigated by Fethullah Gulen, a former Erdogan ally who lives in self-imposed exile in Pennsylvania, and is seeking his extradition. The cleric has denied any involvement.

The coup “was outrageous. F-16 aircrafts bombed Parliament,” Jagland said. “This should be clearly recognized.”

Jagland said he understands Turkey’s need for “taking on” those behind the coup, as well as members of the “secret network” which had infiltrated the army, the judiciary and other institutions.

The government has conducted a sweeping crackdown on those suspected of supporting Gulen’s movement, which runs schools, charities and businesses across the world, vowing to root out the movement’s followers.

Tens of thousands of people in Turkey have been dismissed or suspended from their jobs in the civil service, education, health care, judiciary, the military and media sectors, while about 18,000 have been detained or arrested, mostly in the military.

But Jagland said Turkey had to establish “clear procedures … evidences and clear judicial safeguards,” as it presses ahead with the purges.

“Many of them may have been dragged into something which they did not know about,” Jagland said. “It doesn’t mean that these people knew what this network was doing … Nobody had any imagination that they could start a military coup, killing people and shelling parliament.”

Jagland said he was disturbed by photographs that have emerged of some of the detained suspected coup-plotters appearing bruised, as well as by allegations of torture or mistreatment.

He said he had received assurances from Turkey’s interior minister that the country has “zero tolerance for torture and mistreatment” and that all incidents would be investigated.

“It’s important that allegations of torture are investigated seriously,” Jagland said.

The Turkish government, and Erdogan in particular, have been angered by what they say is a delay in the extradition of Gulen from the U.S., and the issue has strained relations between the two NATO allies. Washington has asked for evidence of Gulen’s involvement in the coup attempt and says the extradition process must be allowed to take its course.

The issue has soured the two countries’ relations.

“From now on, everyone who continues to pay attention to the delusions of the charlatan, the chief terrorist, in Pennsylvania, has accepted in advance what will become of them,” Erdogan said during a speech at a religious council meeting in Ankara earlier Wednesday.


Elena Becatoros contributed to this report from Istanbul.



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