Turkey sacks 4,000 more officials in coup-bid crackdown

Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan makes a speech during the Atlantic Council Istanbul Summit, April 28, 2017Image copyright

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President Erdogan narrowly won a referendum on increasing his powers

The Turkish government has sacked almost 4,000 more public officials in what appears to be the latest purge related to a failed coup last July.

They include more than 1,000 justice ministry workers, a similar number of army staff and more than 100 air force pilots, officials said.

In a separate decree, Turkey banned TV dating shows – a move previously mooted by the government.

Earlier on Saturday, Turkey blocked the online encyclopaedia Wikipedia.

The latest sackings follow the suspension of more than 9,000 police officers and the arrest of 1,000 more last Wednesday on suspicion of having links to the US-based cleric Fethullah Gulen.

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan accuses Mr Gulen of instigating last year’s coup attempt, a charge the cleric denies.

The government said in its Official Gazette that all those sacked were suspected of links to “terrorist organisations and structures presenting a threat to national security”.

Mr Erdogan narrowly won a controversial 16 April referendum on increasing his powers.

Opponents fear the vote, which has divided Turkey, brings him closer to authoritarian rule.

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Suspected supporters of Fethullah Gulen were arrested in raids across the country earlier this month

The ban on TV dating programmes follows a warning in March by Deputy Prime Minister Numan Kurtulmus that the shows do not fit in with Turkish traditions and customs.

“There are some strange programmes that would scrap the institution of family, take away its nobility and sanctity,” he said at the time.

Critics of Turkey’s governing Justice and Development Party (AKP) say they fear the country is sliding toward conservative Islam under Mr Erdogan.

However, AKP supporters say dating shows receive thousands of complaints and the ban is in the public interest.

Court order due

The block on Wikipedia was detected at about 08:00 (05:00 GMT) on Saturday, the Turkey Blocks monitoring group said.

Turkey’s Information and Communication Technologies Authority said an “administrative measure” had been taken but did not give details.

Turkish media said Wikipedia had been asked to remove content by certain writers whom the authorities accuse of “supporting terror” and of linking Turkey to terror groups.

The site had not responded to the demands, the daily newspaper Hurriyet said, and the ban was imposed as a result.

A formal court order backing up the provisional order is expected in the coming days.

Responding to the ban, Wikipedia’s founder Jimmy Wales tweeted: “Access to information is a fundamental human right. Turkish people, I will always stand with you to fight for this right.”

Turkey has temporarily blocked social media sites including Facebook and Twitter in the past, usually following protests or terror attacks.