Turkey Suspends 370 Civic Groups as Post-Coup Purge Widens

Turkey on Saturday suspended the activities of 370 civic groups, including women's and children's rights organizations, as the Ankara government continues its roundup of individuals and groupings with alleged ties to a failed coup attempt four months ago.

The civic groups learned about the government move late Friday, when police in Istanbul began raiding their offices and seizing files.

Lawyers at several community-based legal organizations told The Associated Press the police gave no explanation for the action. The head of a children's rights organization also said authorities provided no information.

Deputy Prime Minister Numan Kurtulmus on Saturday defended the crackdown and said it was justified under state-of-emergency regulations in effect since July. He said there was "strong evidence" linking the suspended organizations to alleged terrorist networks.

An Interior Ministry statement said 153 suspended associations were suspected of links to U.S.-based Muslim cleric Fethullah Gulen, whom Turkey accused of playing a central role in the July 15 failed coup attempt. Another 190 were said to have ties to the outlawed Kurdish militant group known as the PKK, and the remaining suspensions targeted groups with alleged ties to either a far-left militant group or to Islamic State extremists.

Critics, including Western governments and human rights organizations, have voiced strong concern that the purge, originally focused on the so-called Gulen network, has since been expanded to include a wide array of organizations guilty of merely opposing the policies of the Ankara government.

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has said the unprecedented crackdown is principally aimed at what he calls the "Gulenist Terror Organization," and that purges will continue until infiltrators seeking to topple his government have been removed from all state institutions.

More than 100,000 people, including academics and journalists, have been removed from their jobs since government forces crushed the coup attempt days after it was launched. More than 35,000 others, including military officers and opposition politicians, have been arrested for suspected ties to Gulen, who has denied any involvement in the plot

Source: Voice of America