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Turkey widens post-coup purge

ISTANBUL/ANKARA (Reuters) – Turkey purged its police on Monday after rounding up thousands of soldiers in the wake of a failed military coup, and said it could reconsider its friendship with the United States unless Washington hands over a cleric Ankara blames for the putsch.

Nearly 20,000 members of the police, civil service, judiciary and army have been detained or suspended since Friday night’s coup, in which more than 200 people were killed when a faction of the armed forces tried to seize power.

The broad crackdown and calls to reinstate the death penalty for plotters drew concern from Western allies who said Ankara must uphold the rule of law in the country, a NATO member whose cooperation in the fight against Islamic State is crucial to Washington.

Some voiced concern President Tayyip Erdogan – who said he was almost killed or captured by the mutineers – was using the opportunity to consolidate his power and further a process of stifling dissent which has already caused tensions with Europe.

Turkey’s foreign ministry said criticism of the government’s response amounted to backing for the bid to overthrow it.

A senior security official told Reuters that 8,000 police officers, including in the capital Ankara and the biggest city Istanbul, had been removed from their posts on suspicion of links to Friday’s abortive coup.

About 1,500 finance ministry officials had been suspended, a ministry official said, and CNN Turk said 30 governors and more than 50 high-ranking civil servants had been dismissed. Annual leave was suspended for more than 3 million civil servants, while close to 3,000 judges and prosecutors have been suspended.

Prime Minister Binali Yildirim said 7,543 people had so far been detained, including 6,038 soldiers. Some were shown in photographs stripped to their underpants and handcuffed on the floors of police buses and a sports hall. A court remanded 26 generals and admirals in custody on Monday, Turkish media said.

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