At a funeral in Istanbul on Sunday for some of the victims of Turkey’s failed coup which was attended by President Tayyip Erdogan some of the mourners chanted “we want the death penalty.”
Erdogan responded by telling them: “We are not revenge takers, the great revenge taker is God.”
Instead, in his own words, Erdogan has been “cleaning all the state institutions of the virus.”
That virus is moderate Islamic cleric Fetullah Gulen’s movement which Erdogan has accused of masterminding the coup.
Gulen, who is 75 and lives in exile in the US state of Pennsylvania, has denied any involvement in the coup.
Ignoring calls from the international community to show more restraint, Erodgan has arrested around 6000 people from inside the military and the judiciary, many of them Gulen supporters.
Broadcaster NTV cited Justice Minister Bekir Bozdag as saying that more arrests were expected.
Among those arrested is General Bekir Ercan Van, commander of the Incirlik air base from which U.S. aircraft launch air strikes on Islamic State militants in Syria and Iraq, an official said. Erdogan’s chief military assistant was also detained, broadcaster CNN Turk said.
During the purges Erdogan has urged his supporters to stay on the streets, telling them that Turkey’s political turmoil will last longer than 12 hours.
Erdogan said the coup attempt had been put down by the “national will”, blaming “those who cannot bear the unity of our country and are under the orders of masterminds to take over the state”.
He frequently refers to “masterminds” who he says are bent on breaking up Turkey, in what appears to be a veiled reference to the West in general, and more specifically, the United States.
But with expectations growing of heavy measures against dissent, European politicians have warned Erdogan that the coup attempt did not give him a blank cheque to disregard the rule of law, and that he risked isolating himself internationally as he strengthens his position at home.
On Saturday, Labour Minister Suleyman Soylu told broadcaster Haberturk he believed Washington was behind the coup attempt. U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry described public suggestions of a U.S. role as “utterly false”, and said on Sunday that Washington had no intelligence of the coup before it began.
The Pentagon also announced on Sunday that operations from Turkey by the U.S.-led coalition against Islamic State had resumed after Ankara reopened its air space, which had been closed during the coup attempt.
However, U.S. facilities were still operating on internal power sources after Turkey cut off the mains supply to the base. Kerry said the difficulty for U.S. planes using Incirlik may have been a result of Turkish aircraft flown in support of the coup using the base to refuel.
The crackdown intensifies a longstanding push by Erdogan to root out the influence of followers of Fethullah Gulen.
Erdogan accuses followers of Gulen, who was once an ally but is now his arch-enemy, of trying to create a “parallel structure” within the courts, police, armed forces and media with an aim to topple the state.
The cleric has denied this and said he played no role in the attempted coup, denouncing it as an affront to democracy.
Erdogan said Turkey’s justice and foreign ministries would write to Western governments to demand the return of Gulen’s supporters from those countries.
Kerry said he had no evidence that Gulen was behind the plot to seize power, and he urged Turkish authorities to compile evidence as rapidly as possible so the United States could evaluate whether he should be extradited to Turkey.
Even before the coup attempt was over, Erdogan promised a purge of the armed forces. “They will pay a heavy price for this,” he said. “This uprising is a gift from God to us because this will be a reason to cleanse our army.”