Even before Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s plane landed in Istanbul Friday night, he was vowing “revenge” against those responsible for the attempted military coup then underway and since crushed.
Saturday morning, he and his supporters wasted no time making good on his promise — arresting conspirators, purging the judiciary and blaming the U.S..
According to Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim, 2,839 soldiers and officers implicated in the overnight coup attempt have been arrested. The overnight conflict resulted in 265 deaths, including 104 pro-coup participants, and 1,440 injured in Ankara, the capital, and Istanbul, Turkey’s largest city.
Detained soldiers who participated in the attempted overthrow reportedly claimed to have mistaken the coup attempt for military exercises, the Hurriyet newspaper reported on Saturday.
“Only when people began to climb the tanks, we have understood everything,” one detainees said.
Graphic images on social media suggest at least one Turkish soldier who was part of the coup attempt was beheaded when crowds of Erdogan supporters from the the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) rallied on the Bosphorus bridges.
The government is still attempting to corral all soldiers who participated in the coup. The border with neighboring Bulgaria was closed overnight to those attempting to flee Turkey. Eight soldiers who fled to Greece in a military helicopter have requested asylum there and Ankara is demanding their return.
Outrage against the plotters sparked a call for restoration of the death penalty to execute those who mutinied against the Erdogan’s government.
Mehmet Müezzinoglu, ruling Justice and Development Party’s deputy leader, said a bill would be introduced calling for the rebels’ execution.
“We will put forward a motion, which will demand the execution of those who have been involved in the coup attempt,” Müezzinoglu wrote on Twitter.
Following his tweet, #Idamistiyorum (“I want death penalty”) became the top trend on Twitter in Turkey.
Turkish prosecutors have issued 188 arrest warrants for members of the country’s supreme courts. Ten members of the Council of State, Turkey’s top administrative court, are already in custody, according to NTV.
Earlier Saturday, Turkish authorities sacked 2,745 judges from the bench, relieving them of their official duties, following a meeting of Turkey’s High Council of Judges and Prosecutors.
“Mideast Beast: The Scriptural Case for an Islamic Antichrist” completes and establishes the revolutionary argument introduced in Joel Richardson’s New York Times bestselling “Islamic Antichrist,” namely that the Antichrist will be a Muslim, whose empire will arise out of the Middle East.
Throughout the chaos Erdogan pointed the finger at his political foe and U.S. based cleric Fethullah Gulen.
At the height of the conflict Friday, Erdogan gave an interview, via the FaceTime app and a smartphone, where he blamed the coup attempt on a “parallel structure,” a Turkish code phrase for Gulen and his “Gulenist” supporters, whom Erdogan charges, are trying to overthrow his government with secret agents embedded in the military and the judiciary.
In a televised speech, Erdogan called on the U.S. to extradite Gulen. Erdogan said Turkey had never turned back any extradition request for “terrorists” by the U.S. and stressed his nation’s joint role in fighting terrorism.
“I say if we are strategic partners then you should bring about our request,” he said.
But Gulen, who left Turkey in 1999, has denied any responsibility for the conflict.
In a statement, Gulen said he condemned, “in the strongest terms, the attempted military coup in Turkey.”
“Government should be won through a process of free and fair elections, not force,” he said. “I pray to God for Turkey, for Turkish citizens, and for all those currently in Turkey that this situation is resolved peacefully and quickly.”
Gulen sharply rejected any responsibility: “As someone who suffered under multiple military coups during the past five decades, it is especially insulting to be accused of having any link to such an attempt. I categorically deny such accusations.”
But Erdogan’s charge was echoed Saturday by Turkish Labor Minister Süleyman Soylu, who claimed Washington was behind the attempted coup.
“The U.S. is behind the coup attempt. A few journals that are published there [in the U.S.] have been conducting activities for several months. For many months we have sent requests to the U.S. concerning Fethullah Gulen. The U.S. must extradite him,” he said.
PM Yildirim also accused followers of Gulen, who have lived in self-imposed exile in the U.S. for years, of being behind the plot. He warned that any country that stands by the cleric will not be a friend of Turkey and will be considered to be at war with the nation, Reuters reported.
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, visiting Luxembourg, said the U.S. was willing to consider extradition, but Turkey would have to provide proof first.
“We fully anticipate that there will be questions raised about Mr. Gulen,” Kerry told reporters. “And obviously we would invite the government of Turkey, as we always do, to present us with any legitimate evidence that withstands scrutiny. And the United States will accept that and look at it and make judgments about it appropriately.”
Erdogan is certain to carry out and extend his threats of revenge. Even before he was almost removed from power, he had jailed scores of journalists and brought 1,800 criminal cases against people accused of “insulting the president.”