ANKARA, July 19 – Turkey’s two-year state of emergency came to an end at midnight on Wednesday, but as trials of dissidents and journalists continue human rights campaigners have said Ankara must do more to reverse a “suffocating” crackdown on free speech.
Critics say the state of emergency, in place since a failed coup attempt in July 2016 that killed 250 people and wounded 1,400, has been used to detain opponents of the president, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, and his government for lengthy periods without trial and to intimidate dissidents and prosecute media outlets.
More than 120,000 people in the police, military, academia, media and civil service have been detained or dismissed from their jobs over their alleged links to Fethullah Gülen, an exiled preacher based in the US whose supporters Ankara blames for the coup.
“Over the last two years,Turkey has been radically transformed with emergency measures used to consolidate draconian powers, silence critical voices and strip away basic rights,” said Fotis Filippou, Amnesty International’s deputy director for Europe.
“The lifting of the state of emergency alone will not reverse this crackdown. What is needed is systematic action to restore respect for human rights, allow civil society to flourish again and lift the suffocating climate of fear that has engulfed the country.”
Turkey’s government has said it will not seek a renewal of the state of emergency, allowing it to lapse two years after it was imposed and days after Erdoğan was sworn in as president for a fresh five-year term with extraordinary new powers narrowly approved in a referendum last year.
Critics say the use of the emergency powers went beyond Gülenists linked to the coup. About a quarter of Turkey’s judges have either been dismissed or detained, a vast realignment of the judiciary that has prompted outrage and concerns that it is no longer independent.
Thousands have been tried, with many sentenced to life, for involvement in the coup and 100 people have been extradited to Turkey at the behest of the country’s intelligence service, the MİT.
The crackdown has also increased tensions with western allies such as the EU and the US. On Wednesday a court in the city of İzmir ruled for the continued detention of Andrew Brunson, an American pastor accused of having Gülenist links, in a move that could prompt congressional sanction and that was described by an official at the US Commission on International Religious Freedom as a “mockery of justice”.
Erdoğan’s ruling Justice and Development (AK) party has tabled a controversial anti-terrorism bill that will retain some of the state of emergency measures. One provision allows local governors to impose curfews or make some areas off-limits to the public, making it easier to ban demonstrations.
The government also appears determined to continue its prosecutions of journalists and opponents.