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Turkey presses post-coup purge with over 7,000 arrests
[ANKARA] The Turkish government is expected to continue its crack down on suspected putschists Tuesday, while the US-based Muslim cleric accused by Ankara of orchestrating the coup attempt says he doesn't fear extradition.
Turkey has so far detained over 7,500 people and sacked almost 9,000 officials in its relentless purge of suspected plotters with President Recep Tayyip Erdogan vowing to wipe out the "virus".
Mr Erdogan has blamed his arch-foe Fethullah Gulen, a moderate Turkish preacher living in the US, for being behind the attempted power grab that left more than 300 people dead, and has demanded that Washington extradite him.
But the 75-year-old categorically denies any involvement in the plot and has suggested it could have been staged by Mr Erdogan himself.
"I have no concerns personally," Mr Gulen said in an interview with several media outlets including AFP in the Pennsylvania town of Saylorsburg he has called home since 1999 under self-imposed exile.
The United States "is a country of law," he said.
"I don't believe this government will pay attention to anything that is not legally sound."
US Secretary of State John Kerry has said Ankara would need to provide "evidence, not allegations" against Mr Gulen.
The preacher's followers have a powerful presence in Turkish society, including the media, police and judiciary, and Mr Erdogan has long accused him of running a "parallel state" in Turkey.
In remarks that have sparked concern among Western allies, Mr Erdogan has said Turkey could bring back the death penalty for the coup plotters.
"There is a clear crime of treason," Mr Erdogan told CNN in his first media interview since the chaotic events of Friday night.
"The leaders will have to come together and discuss it. If they accept to discuss it, as the president, I will approve any decision to come out of the parliament."
On Monday former air force chief General Akin Ozturk appeared in court, looking haggard and with an ear bandaged, and denied leading the failed coup.
"I am not the person who planned or led the coup. Who planned it and directed it I do not know," state-run news agency Anadolu quoted him as saying in his statement to prosecutors.
General Mehmet Disli, who conducted the operation to capture chief-of-staff Hulusi Akar during the coup, has also been detained.
With Turkey's big cities still on edge, Turkish security forces killed an armed attacker who shot at them from a vehicle outside the Ankara courthouse where suspected coup plotters were appearing before judges.
In another development, police on Monday detained seven soldiers after searching the key Incirlik air base in southern Turkey used by the US for air raids on IS jihadists, Anadolu reported.
Early Monday, special Istanbul anti-terror police units raided the prestigious air force military academy, detaining four suspects, Anadolu reported.
Two Turkish pilots who played a role in the downing of a Russian plane in November are also among those in custody.
A Greek court will Thursday decide the fate of eight Turkish military officers who fled across the border by helicopter after the coup, with Ankara seeking their extradition.
Meanwhile, Mr Erdogan has urged citizens to remain on the streets even after the defeat of the coup attempt, in what the authorities describe as a "vigil" for democracy.
Western leaders have pushed Turkey to follow the rule of law as the massive retaliatory purge adds to existing concerns about human rights and democracy in the strategic Nato country.
"We also urge the government of Turkey to uphold the highest standards of respect for the nation's democratic institutions," US Secretary of State John Kerry said.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel's spokesman denounced "revolting scenes of caprice and revenge against soldiers on the streets" after disturbing pictures emerged of the treatment of some detained suspects.
The Council of Europe also joined the criticism, with its panel of constitutional experts saying: "Arrests and mass sackings of judges are not an acceptable way of restoring democracy."
EU foreign affairs chief Federica Mogherini responded bluntly to the suggestion the death penalty - which Turkey abolished in 2004 as part of its long-running efforts to join the EU - could be reinstated.
"Let me be very clear," she said. "No country can become an EU state if it introduces the death penalty."
Separately the turbulence has raised concerns about the stability of Turkey, which is part of the international coalition fighting Islamic State jihadists in Syria.
It has also hit financial markets, with the lira at one point losing five per cent in value against the US dollar although it rallied slightly Monday, while Sovereign debt rater Moody's said it was reviewing Turkey's credit rating for a possible downgrade.