Recep Tayyip Erdogan urged civilians in a 3am text message to continue guarding public places, hours after announcing three months of emergency rule that grants him and his cabinet sweeping powers to rule by decree.
Turkey’s president insists the country remains under threat even as his government has arrested, detained or suspended nearly 60,000 people after Friday’s failed coup.
In the nationwide text message sent by the president’s office, Mr Erdogan said: “My sacred nation, do not give up from the heroic resistance you are showing for your country, land and flag.”
“We are continuing the duty of guarding democracy and the resistance to teach a lesson to those traitor terrorists who tried to occupy your country,” he added.
Mr Erdogan and his allies have compared the imposition of the emergency rule with France’s decision to do so after a spate of terrorist attacks, dismissing any criticism of its encroachment on the country’s eroded democratic values.
“The declaration of a state of emergency is to protect [democratic] values,” said Mr Erdogan, speaking late on Wednesday night after a meeting with his National Security Council and cabinet.
“European countries have done the same, and those who did not say ‘Why?’ to them have no right to criticise Turkey. The declaration of a state of emergency is to take the necessary precautions to protect the nation from terror and it is to protect democracy.”
But two opposition MPs, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said they were alarmed at the decision, especially after both the CHP, the largest opposition party, and the HDP, a pro-Kurdish party that Mr Erdogan reviles, threw their support behind the president during the coup attempt.
“This completely reverses their position that Mr Erdogan wanted to work with us to keep the country safe,” said an MP from the HDP party.
Turkey’s constitution allows Mr Erdogan’s cabinet to issue decrees under the state of emergency that take immediate effect and are not subject to review by the constitutional court. Two judges on that court are among the 2,750 to have been removed from office as part of a purge of suspected followers of Fethullah Gulen, an Islamic cleric who Mr Erdogan blames for instigating the coup.
The decrees can be reviewed by parliament but Mr Erdogan’s AK party has a majority in the Grand National Assembly, thus giving the president the ability to pass laws immediately and unchecked.
“The decision we have reached isn’t directed at the daily lives of our people but at the rapid functioning of state mechanisms,” said Binali Yildirim, the prime minister hand-chosen by the president.
Mr Gulen lives in the US and Turkey has asked Washington to return the cleric to face charges.
However, John Kerry, the US secretary of state, on Wednesday called on Ankara to provide hard evidence that Mr Gulen was involved in the attempted coup
Mr Kerry said he had not yet seen the documents submitted by Turkey on Tuesday about Mr Gulen, which US officials said were still being examined to see if they constituted a formal extradition request.
“Please don’t send us allegations, send us evidence. We need to have evidence which we can then make a judgment about,” said Mr Kerry.
Turkish officials said the imposition of emergency rule would allow the government to pass laws rapidly but there would be no restrictions on financial or commercial activities. “This is a strictly national security-oriented decision,” said one.
“Turkey will now effectively be governed temporarily under a presidential system — achieved not through democratic but through extraordinary legal means,” said Mujtaba Rahman of the Eurasia Group, adding that the decision would significantly prolong uncertainty, “This is a big gamble for Erdogan and a serious test for the feasibility of a presidential system.”
Mr Erdogan interrupted the cabinet and NSC meeting for an interview with Al Jazeera, the media network, in which he criticised European politicians, telling Jean-Marc Ayrault, the French foreign minister, to “mind his own business”.
European politicians and EU officials have publicly criticised Turkey for the speed and breadth of the post-coup purge and for Mr Erdogan’s support for restoring the death penalty.
“The EU is not the whole world,” Mr Erdogan said. “It is just 28 countries. The US has the death penalty, Russia has it, China has it. For 53 years, we have been knocking at the door and they have kept us waiting, while others have joined.”
Since the failed coup, the government has asked deans of all universities to retire, restricted foreign travel for as much as 5 per cent of the population, suspended the licences of thousands of schoolteachers and purged the military, police and intelligence services.
“I urge the government of Turkey to respond [to the failed coup] by upholding the rule of law, by strengthening the protection of human rights and by reinforcing democratic institutions,” said Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, the UN high commissioner for human rights.
Ashton Carter, US defence secretary, said he had received assurances from his Turkish counterpart that the attempted coup would not affect the US-led military campaign against Isis, which has been making extensive use of bases in Turkey.
“On the military side, he assured me very clearly that nothing that happened over the weekend will interrupt their support for their counter-Isis campaign,” Mr Carter said on Wednesday, after a telephone conversation with his Turkish counterpart. “He assured me that things would be returning to normal very shortly. Our campaign has not been affected at all.”
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