News / World

Rights group criticizes Turkey over post-coup clampdown

BASEL, Switzerland — Turkish government has used last year's failed military coup to launch an expansive crackdown that has swept up peaceful critics and undermined democracy, a human rights group said Thursday.

Human Rights Watch's report said the July 15 botched coup was no excuse for the scale of the government's moves against critics and opponents that followed.

HRW's Europe and Central Asia director, Hugh Williamson, says "with hundreds of thousands of people dismissed or detained without due process, an independent media silenced and Kurdish opposition members of parliament in jail, Turkey has been plunged into its worst crisis in a generation."

More than 100,000 people have been suspended or dismissed from their jobs in the government's campaign against alleged coup plotters.

The organization also expressed concern over "serious and widespread human rights violations" in the government's escalating conflict with Kurdish rebels in Turkey's predominantly Kurdish southeast.

A senior Turkish official, speaking on condition of anonymity in line with government rules that bar speaking to journalists without prior authorization, categorically rejected rights group's statements. The official said the prosecution of individuals and organizations linked to terror groups is not a crackdown on dissent.

Turkish authorities blame the coup attempt on a U.S-based Islamist cleric and the supporters of his movement, which has been designated as a terrorist organization in Turkey. HRW said the Turkish government had "misused terrorism laws against followers of the US-based cleric Fethullah Gulen."

The cleric, a former ally of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, denies masterminding the violent coup attempt that claimed the lives of 270 people.

The government purge has been expanded to include ties to other "terror organizations," including alleged links to the outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party or the PKK. The PKK has been waging a three-decades-long insurgency and is considered a terror organization by Turkey and its allies, including the U.S.

Turkey, where a state of emergency is in force, has seen more than 30 major attacks in past year linked to Kurdish or Islamic State militants.