Turkey sacks or suspends hundreds more judges in coup probe

October 13, 2016 8:50 AM EDT

Turkey's Defence Minister Fikri Isik answers a question during an interview with Reuters in Ankara, Turkey, August 5, 2016. REUTERS/Tumay Berkin - RTSL7HF


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ANKARA (Reuters) - The Turkish Armed Forces sacked 109 military judges on Thursday, the defense ministry said, further extending a crackdown which has targeted tens of thousands of state employees as authorities investigate an attempted coup in July.

Judicial authorities also suspended another 184 judges and prosecutors, adding to a stream of dismissals and arrests which Ankara says are aimed at rooting out supporters of U.S.-based cleric Fethullah Gulen, who Ankara says masterminded the putsch.

State-run Anadolu news agency said the 184 were suspended for using a messaging app called ByLock. Turkey's intelligence agency has identified some 56,000 users of ByLock which Gulen's followers began using in 2014, officials have said. Gulen denies any involvement in the failed coup.

The radical crackdown by Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan has drawn human rights concerns from Western governments who need Turkey's cooperation as they struggle to respond to Syria's civil war and the related refugee crisis.

In a further wave of suspensions late on Thursday, the education ministry removed 2,400 teachers from their posts as part of the probe, Anadolu reported.

In total, some 32,000 people have been jailed pending trial and 100,000 members of the security and civil services, teachers and others have been fired or suspended from work.

The defense ministry move brought the number of sacked military judges to 209 out of a total of 468 before the coup, according to the privately-owned Dogan news agency.

Among those dismissed were the former legal advisers to the chief of general staff and the air force.

Concerns have been voiced about the crackdown's impact on state institutions, and the coastguard command on Thursday carried on its website a notice seeking 760 new soldiers.

On Wednesday, Turkish authorities issued arrest warrants for 215 more police officers, and the defense ministry said the armed forces had dismissed more than 200 personnel.

The purges within the armed forces, NATO's second largest, have resulted in thousands of soldiers being discharged, and around 40 percent of generals.

Erdogan vowed to restructure the military after the coup. The coastguard command was brought under interior ministry control and its head was dismissed.

In its notice, the coastguard command said it would hire 50 officers, 105 sergeants, and 605 privates under contracts, and announced applicants must have no links to any "terrorist organization or its legal and illegal extensions".

(Writing by Tuvan Gumrukcu and Daren Butler; Editing by Mark Trevelyan)



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