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Erdogan Vows to Remove ‘Cancer of Gulen’ and Cleanse the Army | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan helps to carry a coffin with a victim of a thwarted coup following a funeral service in Istanbul, Turkey, July 17, 2016. REUTERS/Murad Sezer

Istanbul-Turkey is still witnessing the repercussions of last Friday’s failed military coup after President Recep Tayyip Erdogan vowed to launch a large campaign to cleanse the judiciary and the army and remove the cancerous tumor represented by the cell of Fethullah Gulen, his rival.

Speaking to a crowd of supporters who gathered Sunday in one of Istanbul’s mosques, Erdogan asked them and other Turks who rejected the coup attempt, to stay in the streets of the capital for a week.

Erdogan escalated the tone of his speech during the funeral services of several victims who had been killed in the failed coup. He said the cancerous tumor should be removed, hinting to the dissident movement run by cleric Gulen, who has gone into exile to the U.S. after being accused of his involvement in a coup attempt. The U.S.-based cleric accused Erdogan of staging the coup himself to justify his purge.

“They cannot escape,” the Turkish president said, calling on his supporters to stay in public places and the streets for a week. As Erdogan spoke, his supporters shouted: “God is Great,” calling for the execution of those who had orchestrated the coup.

In his speech, the Turkish president hinted that the death penalty could be a resort in Turkey after it was annulled in the 1990s.

Erdogan asked Washington to hand over Gulen after the President accused him of orchestrating the coup attempt, which left at least 265 dead and hundreds of injuries.

On Saturday, Erdogan said: “I repeat my call on the U.S. and President (Barack Obama), give this person back to Turkey.”

Gulen had denied in an interview with The New York Times his involvement in any of the events that happened in Turkey last Friday, accusing Erdogan of staging the coup himself.

Sources from the Alliance for Shared Values, headed by Gulen, told Asharq Al-Awsat that the Turkish government does not possess any evidence against Gulen, neither concerning his involvement in the last military coup nor in the terrorist wave that has hit Turkey lately.

The sources said Turkish courts have rejected accusations made against Gulen and his supporters in the case of corruption in 2013, which Erdogan said was an attempt by Gulen to overthrow his government.

Asked whether some of his supporters had been involved in the coup, Gulen said: “I am unsure who my followers are in Turkey.”

Hundreds of Erdogan’s supporters had filled the streets of Istanbul on Saturday night.

The state-run Anadolu agency quoted Justice Minister Bekir Bozdag as saying at least 6,000 people have been arrested across Turkey over alleged ties to Friday’s coup attempt.

More than 50 senior army officers linked to the events were arrested in the western province of Denizli early Sunday.

The Turkish authorities had also arrested around 3,000 military personnel including senior officers, over their alleged involvement in the attempted coup.

Anadolu news agency said among those under arrest are Maj. Gen. Ozhan Ozbakir, commander of the Denizli garrison and the 11th Commando Brigade.

Turkish media outlets welcomed the failed military coup. On Sunday night, prayers were made simultaneously in Turkey’s 85,000 mosques to honor those who died in the attempted military coup.

Meanwhile, Russian President Vladimir Putin expressed during a phone call with Erdogan, Russia’s hopes for the quick restoration of order and stability in Turkey.

French Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault said Sunday that Turkey’s coup attempt does not mean offering Erdogan a “blank check.” Ayrault called on Ankara to respect international laws. The French Foreign Minister told France 3 television that the country’s coup should not be used by Erdogan as a “blank check” to silence opponents.