03/31/2017, 14.25
TURKEY
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Erdoğan continues purge with almost 2,600 people detained and almost 500 jailed this month

Kurds and Gülen supporters bear the brunt of the never-ending crackdown. Meanwhile, as the constitutional referendum campaign heats up, the authorities threaten municipalities if the Yes campaign loses. The president and top government officials get more than 4,100 minutes of broadcast time against one for pro-Kurdish party.

Ankara (AsiaNews) – The purge of dissidents and critics in Turkey’s government and other institutions continues, as people from all walks of life are hunted down and taken into custody.

Indeed, the crackdown since the failed July coup shows no sign of abating. Between March 1 and March 29, at least 2,586 people were detained, with 423 of them placed under arrest, in operations centred on Turkey’s Kurdish minority and sympathisers of Fethullah Gülen, the man accused of masterminding the coup.

The latest to feel Erdoğan’s wrath is Nuri Polat. A lawyer representing Meral Akşener, a former MP and candidate for leadership of the opposition Nationalist Movement Party (Milliyetçi Hareket Partisi, MHP), Polat was detained by police over alleged links to the Gülen movement.

On 21 March, Ali Gül, a 21-year-old university student, was arrested days after a ‘No campaign’ video in which he appeared went viral ahead of the 16 April constitutional referendum.

Since July 2016, Turkish authorities have arrested more than 45,000 people, including teachers, soldiers, intellectuals, opposition politicians, businessmen, journalists, activists and ordinary citizens. More than 135,000 public servants have been either suspended or dismissed.

The crackdown is aimed at Kurds, and sympathisers (real or assumed) of the movement led by Islamic preacher Fethullah Gülen, who lives in exile in Pennsylvania, US.

According to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and other government leaders Gülen was behind the coup in Turkey that killed 270 people, wounding thousands.

Analysts and experts note that the escalation of arrests is linked to the upcoming referendum on constitutional reform.

President Erdoğan has strongly pushed for the proposed changes to enhance his powers and extend his time in office beyond 2019, when his current mandate ends.

As referendum day approaches, pro-Yes propaganda by top government and local party officials has intensified.

Arif Kahraman, the deputy governor of Adilcevaz district in Bitlis province has reportedly threatened to dismiss village headmen if they do not vote Yes in the upcoming referendum and that communities where the No wins would lose municipal services.

Media coverage is a clear sign of the times. In a disquieting report on press freedom and pluralism, the Cumhuriyet daily noted that the state-run Turkish Radio and Television Corporation (Türkiye Radyo ve Televizyon Kurumu, TRT) broadcast speeches by President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and other officials from the ruling Justice and Development Party (Adalet ve Kalkınma Partisi, AKP) for a total of 4,113 minutes from March 1 to March 22. Erdoğan’s speeches alone totalled 1,309 minutes over the same period.

By contrast, the Republican People’s Party (Cumhuriyet Halk Partisi, CHP) was allocated 216 minutes, the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) was given 48 minutes, and the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (Halkların Demokratik Partisi, HDP) got a single 1 minute of airtime in pre-referendum broadcasts.

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