Three people killed after Sudan’s military seizes power in coup

By Khalid Abdelaziz

KHARTOUM (Reuters) -Sudan’s military seized power from a transitional government on Monday and soldiers killed at least three people and wounded 80 as street protests broke out against the coup.

The leader of the takeover, General Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, dissolved the military-civilian Sovereign Council that had been set up to guide the country to democracy following the overthrow of long-ruling autocrat Omar al-Bashir in a popular uprising two years ago.

Burhan announced a state of emergency, saying the armed forces needed to protect safety and security, but he promised to hold elections in July 2023 and hand over to an elected civilian government then.

“What the country is going through now is a real threat and danger to the dreams of the youth and the hopes of the nation,” he said.

Youths opposed to the coup barricaded streets as clashes broke out with troops.

The Central Committee of Sudanese Doctors said three people had died of wounds after being shot by soldiers and at least 80 people had been injured.

Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok was detained and taken to an undisclosed location after refusing to issue a statement in support of the takeover, the information ministry said.

The ministry, still loyal to Hamdok, urged resistance and said tens of thousands of people opposed to the takeover had taken to the streets and had faced gunfire near the military headquarters in Khartoum.

Troops had arrested civilian members of the Sovereign Council and government figures, it said, called on Sudanese to oppose the military.

“We raise our voices loudly to reject this coup attempt,” it said in a statement.

In Khartoum’s twin city Omdurman, protesters barricaded streets and chanted in support of civilian rule.

“Burhan cannot deceive us. This is a military coup,” said a young man who gave his name as Saleh.


Sudan has been ruled for most of its post-colonial history by military leaders who seized power in coups. It had become a pariah to the West and was on the U.S. terrorism blacklist under Bashir, who hosted Osama bin Laden in the 1990s and is wanted by the International Criminal Court in the Hague for war crimes.

The country had been on edge since last month when a failed coup plot, blamed on Bashir supporters, unleashed recriminations between the military and civilians in the transitional cabinet.

In recent weeks a coalition of rebel groups and political parties aligned themselves with the military and called on it to dissolve the civilian government, while cabinet ministers took part in protests against the prospect of military rule.

Sudan has also been suffering an economic crisis. Helped by foreign aid, civilian officials have claimed credit for some tentative signs of stabilization after a sharp devaluation of the currency and the lifting of fuel subsidies.

Washington had tried to avert the collapse of the power-sharing agreement by sending a special envoy, Jeffrey Feltman. The director of Hamdok’s office, Adam Hereika, told Reuters the military had mounted the takeover despite “positive movements” towards an agreement after meetings with Feltman in recent days.

White House spokesperson Karine Jean-Pierre said: “We reject the actions by the military and call for the immediate release of the prime minister and others who have been placed under house arrest.”

The military takeover will have lasting consequences on Sudan’s relations with the United States and it should reverse course immediately, Senate Foreign Relations Chairman Bob Menendez said.

The military had been meant to pass on leadership of the Sovereign Council to a civilian figure in the coming months. But transitional authorities had struggled to move forward on issues including whether to hand Bashir over to the Hague.

Burhan said it was incumbent on the armed forces to act to halt “incitement to chaos and violence”.

The United Nations, Arab League and African Union all expressed concern. Political leaders should be released and human rights respected, AU Commission Chair Moussa Faki Mahamat said in a statement.

Britain called the coup an unacceptable betrayal of the Sudanese people. France called for the immediate release of Hamdok and other civilian leaders. Egypt called on all parties to exercise self-restraint.

The Sudanese Professionals Association, an activist coalition in the uprising against Bashir, called for a strike.

Burhan’s “reckless decisions will increase the ferocity of the street’s resistance and unity after all illusions of partnership are removed,” it said on its Facebook page.

The main opposition Forces of Freedom and Change alliance called for civil disobedience and protests across the country.

Two main political parties, the Umma and the Sudanese Congress, condemned what they called a coup and campaign of arrests.

Hamdok, an economist and former senior U.N. official, was appointed as a technocratic prime minister in 2019 but struggled to sustain the transition amid splits between the military and civilians and the pressures of the economic crisis.

(Reporting by Khalid Abdelaziz, Nafisa Eltahir, Moataz Abdelazim, Enas Alashray, Nadine Awadalla, Daniel Moshashai, Patricia Zengerle, Nandita Bose, Trevor Hunnicutt and Doina Chiacu; Writing by Aidan Lewis, Michael Georgy; Editing by Peter Graff and Angus MacSwan)

Myanmar currency drops 60% in weeks as economy tanks since February coup

(Reuters) – Myanmar’s currency has lost more than 60% of its value since the beginning of September, driving up food and fuel prices in an economy that has tanked since a military coup eight months ago.

Many gold shops and money exchanges closed on Wednesday due to the turmoil, while the kyat’s dive trended on social media with comments ranging from stark warnings to efforts to find some humor as yet another crisis hits the strife-torn nation.

“This will rattle the generals as they are quite obsessed with the kyat rate as a broader barometer of the economy, and therefore a reflection on them,” Richard Horsey, a Myanmar expert at the International Crisis Group, said.

In August, the Central Bank of Myanmar tried tethering the kyat 0.8% either side of its reference rate against the dollar, but gave up on Sept. 10 as pressure on the exchange rate mounted.

The shortage of dollars has become so bad that some money changers have pulled down their shutters.

“Due to the currency price instability at the moment…all Northern Breeze Exchange Service branches are temporarily closed,” the money changer said on Facebook.

Those still operating were quoting a rate of 2,700 kyat per dollar on Tuesday, compared to 1,695 on Sept. 1 and 1,395 back on Feb. 1 when the military overthrew a democratically elected government led by Nobel Laureate Aung San Suu Kyi.


The World Bank predicted on Monday the economy would slump 18% this year and said Myanmar would see the biggest contraction in employment in the region and the number of poor would rise.

The increasing economic pressures come amid signs of an upsurge in bloodshed, as armed militias have become bolder in clashes with the army after months of protests and strikes by opponents of the junta.

“The worse the political situation is, the worse the currency rate will be,” said a senior executive at a Myanmar bank, who declined to be identified.

Myanmar is also struggling to deal with a second wave of coronavirus infections that started in June with the response by authorities crippled after many health workers joined protests. Reported cases have comes off their highs though the true extent of the outbreak remains unclear.

In the immediate months after the Feb. 1 coup, many people queued up to withdraw savings from banks and some bought gold, but a jewelry merchant in Yangon said many desperate people were now trying to sell their gold.

The central bank gave no reason to why it abandoned its managed float strategy earlier this month, but analysts believe its foreign currency reserves must be seriously depleted.

Central bank officials did not answer calls seeking comment, but World Bank data shows it had just $7.67 billion in reserves at the end of 2020.

After coming off its managed float, the central bank still spent $65 million, buying kyat at a rate of 1,750 to 1,755 per dollar between Sept. 13-27.

The bank executive said the central bank’s efforts had limited impact in a currency market shorn of confidence.

The economic crisis has driven up the price of staples, and the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs said this week that around three million people now require humanitarian assistance in Myanmar, up from one million before the coup.

In a country where gross domestic product per capita was just $1,400 last year, a 48-kg bag of rice now costs 48,000 kyat, or around $18, up nearly 40% since the coup, while gasoline prices have nearly doubled to 1,445 kyat per liter.

“If you have money, you buy gold, you buy dollars, you buy (Thai) baht. If you do not have money, you will starve,” said Facebook user Win Myint in a post.

(Reporting by Reuters Staff; Writing by Ed Davies; Editing by Simon Cameron-Moore and Nick Macfie)

Pressuring junta, France suspends joint military operations with Malian forces

By Tangi Salaün

PARIS (Reuters) -France said on Thursday it was suspending its joint military operations with local troops in Mali as part of efforts to pressure the military junta there to restore a civilian-led government.

Mali’s military arrested interim President Bah Ndaw and Prime Minister Moctar Ouane last week and pressured them to resign, derailing a transition to democratic elections after another military coup last August.

Former vice president Assimi Goita, a colonel who led the August coup and last week’s revolt, was declared president on Friday.

West African regional bloc ECOWAS and the African Union have suspended Mali from their organizations and threatened sanctions.

“Pending these guarantees, France, after informing its partners and the Malian authorities, has decided to suspend, as a precaution and temporarily, joint military operations with the Malian forces, as well as national advisory missions that benefit them,” the Armed Forces Ministry said in a statement.

French forces will continue to operate in the country separately and the decision will be reassessed in the coming days, it added.

A spokesman for the Malian army declined to comment on what he termed a political matter.

France, the former colonial power, has more than 5,000 troops waging counter-insurgency operations against Islamist militants in Mali and the wider Sahel, an arid region of West Africa just below the Sahara desert.

Militants linked to al Qaeda and Islamic State have strengthened their foothold across the region, making large swathes of territory ungovernable and stoking ethnic violence, especially in Mali and Burkina Faso.

While France has hailed some success in recent months, the situation is extremely fragile and Paris has increasingly grown frustrated with no end in sight to its operations.

Speaking to the Journal du Dimanche newspaper, President Emmanuel Macron said on Sunday the latest power grab by the junta and any sign it plans to negotiate with Islamist militants could lead to a French withdrawal.

“I passed them the message that I would not stay alongside a country where there is no longer democratic legitimacy or transition,” he was quoted as saying.

(Reporting by Tangi Salaun in Paris; Additional reporting by John Irish in Paris and Paul Lorgerie in BamakoWriting by John Irish; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama and Matthew Lewis)

U.N. Security Council calls for release of Myanmar’s Suu Kyi

(Reuters) – The United Nations Security Council called for the release of Myanmar’s leader Aung San Suu Kyi and others detained by the military and voiced concern over the state of emergency, but stopped short of condemning this week’s coup.

U.S. President Joe Biden’s administration is meanwhile considering an executive order in response to the coup that could include some sanctions, national security adviser Jake Sullivan said.

Myanmar’s long and troubled transition to democracy was derailed on Monday when army commander Min Aung Hlaing took power, alleging irregularities in an election last November that Suu Kyi’s party won in a landslide.

The 15-member U.N. Security Council said in a statement agreed by consensus on Thursday that they “stressed the need to uphold democratic institutions and processes, refrain from violence, and fully respect human rights, fundamental freedoms and the rule of law.”

Language in the statement was softer than that originally drafted by Britain and made no mention of a coup – apparently to win support from China and Russia, which have traditionally shielded Myanmar from significant council action. China also has large economic interests in Myanmar.

A spokesperson for China’s U.N. mission said Beijing hoped the key messages in the statement “could be heeded by all sides and lead to a positive outcome” in its neighbor.

Reuters was not immediately able to reach the Myanmar government for comment.

Nobel Peace laureate Suu Kyi, 75, has not been seen since her arrest. Police have filed charges against her of illegally importing and using six walkie-talkie radios found at her home and she has been detained until Feb. 15.

Some 147 people have been detained since the coup, including activists, lawmakers and officials from Suu Kyi’s government, Myanmar’s Assistance Association for Political Prisoners (AAPP) said.

At least four people were arrested on Thursday, including three who took part in a street demonstration and a teenager who was banging a pot in part of what have become nightly protests against the coup.

In a country with a bloody history of crackdowns on demonstrations, there has been no mass outpouring of opposition on the streets.

But doctors have helped spearhead a campaign of civil disobedience that has also been joined by some other government employees, students and youth groups.


“Lights are shining in the dark,” said Min Ko Naing, a veteran of past campaigns against military rule, in a call to action. “We need to show how many people are against this unfair coup.”

In the face of the dissent, Myanmar’s junta blocked Facebook on Thursday, trying to shut off an important channel for opposition. Demand for VPNs surged over 4,000% as people sought to defeat the ban.

The Ministry of Communications and Information said Facebook would be blocked until Feb. 7, because users were “spreading fake news and misinformation and causing misunderstanding”.

Hlaing has moved quickly to consolidate his grip on power. He told a business group on Wednesday night he could remain in charge for six months after a one-year state of emergency ends in order to hold fair elections.

But in a show of defiance to the generals, about a dozen lawmakers from Suu Kyi’s party convened a symbolic parliamentary session on Thursday.

Among the steps the Biden administration is looking at are targeted sanctions on individuals and on entities controlled by the military, national security adviser Sullivan told a news briefing.

The daughter of the former British colony’s independence hero Aung San and the longtime leader of its democracy movement, Suu Kyi spent about 15 years under house arrest between 1989 and 2010. She was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1991.

She remains hugely popular at home despite damage to her international reputation over the plight of Muslim Rohingya refugees.

The NLD won about 80% of the parliament seats in the November election and trounced a pro-military party, according to the election commission. The army refused to accept the result, citing unsubstantiated allegations of fraud.

(Reporting by Reuters staff; Writing by Matthew Tostevin, Rosalba O’Brien and Stephen Coates; editing by Lincoln Feast, Angus MacSwan and Nick Macfie)

Myanmar police file charges against Aung San Suu Kyi after coup

(Reuters) -Myanmar police have filed charges against ousted leader Aung San Suu Kyi for illegally importing communications equipment and she will be detained until Feb. 15 for investigations, according to a police document.

The move followed a military coup on Monday and the detention of Nobel Peace laureate Suu Kyi and other civilian politicians. The takeover cut short Myanmar’s long transition to democracy and drew condemnation from the United States and other Western countries.

A police request to a court detailing the accusations against Suu Kyi, 75, said six walkie-talkie radios had been found in a search of her home in the capital Naypyidaw. The radios were imported illegally and used without permission, it said.

The document reviewed on Wednesday requested Suu Kyi’s detention “in order to question witnesses, request evidence and seek legal counsel after questioning the defendant.”

A separate document showed police filed charges against ousted President Win Myint for violating protocols to stop the spread of coronavirus during campaigning for an election last November.

Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy (NLD) won the election in a landslide but the military claimed it was marred by fraud and justified its seizure of power on those grounds.

Reuters was not immediately able to reach the police, the government or the court for comment.

The chair of the ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) Parliamentarians for Human Rights, Charles Santiago, said the new charges were ludicrous.

“This is an absurd move by the junta to try to legitimize their illegal power grab,” he said in a statement.

The electoral commission had said the vote was fair.

Suu Kyi spent about 15 years under house arrest between 1989 and 2010 as she led the country’s democracy movement, and she remains hugely popular at home despite damage to her international reputation over the plight of Muslim Rohingya refugees in 2017.

The NLD made no immediate comment. A party official said on Tuesday he had learned she was under house arrest in the capital, Naypyidaw, and was in good health.


The party said earlier in a statement that its offices had been raided in several regions and it urged authorities to stop what it called unlawful acts after its election victory.

Opposition to the junta headed by Army chief General Min Aung Hlaing has begun to emerge in Myanmar.

Staff at scores of government hospitals across the country of 54 million people stopped work or wore red ribbons as part of a civil disobedience campaign.

The newly formed Myanmar Civil Disobedience Movement said doctors at 70 hospitals and medical departments in 30 towns had joined the protest. It accused the army of putting its interests above a coronavirus outbreak that has killed more than 3,100 people in Myanmar, one of the highest tolls in Southeast Asia.

“We really cannot accept this,” said 49-year-old Myo Myo Mon, who was among the doctors who stopped work to protest.

“We will do this in a sustainable way, we will do it in a non-violent way…This is the route our state counselor desires,” she said, referring to Suu Kyi by her title.

The latest coup is a massive blow to hopes that Myanmar is on a path to stable democracy. The junta has declared a one-year state of emergency and has promised to hold fair elections, but has not said when.


The Group of Seven largest developed economies condemned the coup on Wednesday and said the election result must be respected.

“We call upon the military to immediately end the state of emergency, restore power to the democratically-elected government, to release all those unjustly detained and to respect human rights and the rule of law,” the G7 said in a statement.

China has not specifically condemned the coup in its neighbor but the foreign ministry rejected the suggestion that it supported or gave tacit consent to it.

“We wish that all sides in Myanmar can appropriately resolve their differences and uphold political and social stability,” foreign ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin told a briefing.

At the United Nations on Tuesday, its special envoy for Myanmar, Christine Schraner Burgener, urged the Security Council to “collectively send a clear signal in support of democracy in Myanmar”.

But a diplomat with China’s U.N. mission said it would be difficult to reach consensus on the draft statement and that any action should avoid escalating tension or complicating the situation.

U.S. President Joe Biden has threatened to reimpose sanctions on the generals who seized power.

U.S. Army General Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, tried but was unable to connect to Myanmar’s military following the coup.

The military had ruled the former British colony from 1962 until Suu Kyi’s party came to power in 2015 under a constitution that guarantees the generals a major role in government.

Her international standing as a human rights champion was badly damaged over the expulsion of hundreds of thousands of Rohingya Muslims in 2017 and her defense of the military against accusations of genocide.

(Reporting by Reuters staff; Writing by Matthew Tostevin, Grant McCool and Stephen Coates; Editing by Lincoln Feast, Robert Birsel and Angus MacSwan)

After military shake-up, Erdogan says Turkey to tackle Kurds in Syria

: Turkish army tanks drive towards to the border in Karkamis on the Turkish-Syrian border in the southeastern Gaziantep province, Turkey, August 25,

By Dominic Evans and Orhan Coskun

ISTANBUL (Reuters) – Days after a reshuffle of Turkey’s top military commanders, President Tayyip Erdogan has revived warnings of military action against Kurdish fighters in Syria that could set back the U.S.-led battle against Islamic State.

Kurdish militia are spearheading an assault against the hardline militants in their Syrian stronghold Raqqa, from where Islamic State has planned attacks around the world for the past three years.

But U.S. backing for the Kurdish YPG fighters in Syria has infuriated Turkey, which views their growing battlefield strength as a security threat due to a decades-old insurgency by the Kurdish PKK within in its borders.

There have been regular exchanges of rocket and artillery fire in recent weeks between Turkish forces and YPG fighters who control part of Syria’s northwestern border.

Turkey, which has the second largest army in NATO after the United States, reinforced that section of the border at the weekend with artillery and tanks and Erdogan said Turkey was ready to take action.

“We will not leave the separatist organization in peace in both Iraq and Syria,” Erdogan said in a speech on Saturday in the eastern town of Malatya, referring to the YPG in Syria and PKK bases in Iraq. “We know that if we do not drain the swamp, we cannot get rid of flies.”

The YPG denies Turkish allegations of links with Kurdish militants inside Turkey, saying it is only interested in self-rule in Syria and warning that any Turkish assault will draw its fighters away from the battle against Islamic State which they are waging in an alliance with local Arab forces.

Erdogan’s comments follow the appointment of three new leaders of Turkey’s army, air force and navy last week – moves which analysts and officials said were at least partly aimed at preparing for any campaign against the YPG militia.

Turkish forces swept into north Syria last year to seize territory from Islamic State, while also cutting off Kurdish-controlled northeast Syria from the Kurdish pocket of Afrin further west. They thereby prevented Kurdish control over almost the whole sweep of the border – Ankara’s worst-case scenario.

Recent clashes have centered around the Arab towns of Tal Rifaat and Minnigh, near Afrin, which are held by the Kurdish YPG and allied fighters.

Erdogan said Turkey’s military incursion last year dealt a blow to “terrorist projects” in the region and promised further action. “We will make new and important moves soon,” he said.



His comments follow weeks of warnings from Turkey of possible military action against the YPG.

Washington’s concern to prevent any confrontation which deflects the Kurdish forces attacking Raqqa may help stay Ankara’s hand, but a Turkish government source said last week’s changes in military leadership have prepared the ground.

“With this new structure, some steps will be taken to be more active in the struggle against terror,” the source said. “A structure that acts according to the realities of the region will be formed”.

The battle for Raqqa has been underway since June, and a senior U.S. official said on Friday that 2,000 Islamic State fighters are believed to be still defending positions and “fighting for every last block” in the city.

Even after the recapture of Raqqa, U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis has left open the possibility of longer-term American assistance to the YPG.

The influence of Turkey’s once-dominant military has decreased dramatically since Erdogan came to power nearly 15 years ago. A purge in senior ranks since last year’s failed military coup has stripped it of 40 percent of top officers.

Last Wednesday’s appointments were issued by the Supreme Military Council, a body which despite its name is now dominated by politicians loyal to Erdogan.

“Of course the political will is behind these decisions, Erdogan’s preferences are behind them,” the source said. “But the restructuring of the Turkish Armed Forces and the demand for a more active fight against the PKK and Islamic State also has a role”.

Vacancies in senior military ranks resulting from the year-long purge would not be filled immediately, he said, but would be addressed over time.

While all three forces – air, land and sea – are under new command, focus has centered on the new army chief Yasar Guler. As head of Turkey’s gendarmerie, he was seen to take a tough line against the PKK and the movement of U.S.-based cleric Fethullah Gulen blamed by the government for the July 2016 coup attempt.

Ankara considers the YPG an extension of the PKK, which is designated a terrorist organization by Turkey, the United States and European Union.

Can Kasapoglu, a defense analyst at the Istanbul-based Center for Economics and Foreign Policy Studies (EDAM), said the YPG “remains at the epicenter of Turkey’s threat perception”.

Guler was well-placed to address Turkey’s “transnational counter-terrorism priorities” and lead the campaign against Kurdish forces because of his past roles as chief of military intelligence, head of gendarmerie and postings to NATO.

“There is an undeniable likelihood that Turkey’s new top military chain of command might have to lead a major campaign against the YPG,” Kasapoglu said.

Guler is now favorite to take over from the overall head of the Turkish armed forces, General Hulusi Akar, who is due to step down in two years.

“Guler gets on well with members of Erdogan’s AK Party and is known for his hardline performance against the PKK…and the Gulen movement,” said Metin Gurcan an independent security analyst and retired Turkish military officer who now writes a column for Al-Monitor news website.

For the president, who faces a re-election campaign in 2019, a smooth succession from Akar to Guler would avoid any military upheaval which could send his plans off-course, Gurcan said.

“Until 2023, Erdogan should have smooth sailing without disruption from the Turkish armed forces.”


(Additional reporting by Tulay Karadeniz and Dirimcan Barut in Ankara; editing by Philippa Fletcher)


Turkish soldiers accused of Erdogan assassination attempt to go to trial

Turkish soldiers accused of attempting to assassinate President Tayyip Erdogan on the night of the failed last year's July 15 coup, are escorted by gendarmes as they arrive for the first hearing of the trial in Mugla, Turkey,

By Humeyra Pamuk

MUGLA, Turkey (Reuters) – Prosecutors called for life sentences for more than 40 Turkish soldiers on Monday at the start of their trial for attempting to assassinate President Tayyip Erdogan during last year’s failed coup, according to the indictment obtained by Reuters.

Under tight security, the defendants were bussed in to a courthouse in the southwestern city of Mugla, not far from the luxury resort where Erdogan and his family narrowly escaped the soldiers, fleeing in a helicopter shortly before their hotel was attacked.

More than 240 people were killed during the July 15 failed coup, when a group of rogue soldiers commandeered tanks, warplanes and helicopters, attacking parliament and attempting to overthrow the government.

On Monday, prosecutors in Mugla charged 47 suspects, almost all of them soldiers, with charges including attempting to assassinate the president, breaching the constitution and membership of an armed terrorist organization.

It was not immediately clear how all the suspects would plead. One of the first defendants to testify admitted to accepting a mission to seize, but not kill, Erdogan.

“My mission was to take the president and bring him to Akinci air base safe and sound,” Gokhan Sonmezates told the court, referring to a base outside Ankara that briefly functioned as a command center for the coup plotters.

Turkey says the coup was orchestrated by a U.S.-based Muslim cleric, Fethullah Gulen. The cleric, who has lived in self-imposed exile in Pennsylvania since 1999, has denied the charges and condemned the coup.

Since the failed coup, more than 40,000 people have been arrested and more than 100,000 have been sacked or suspended from the military, civil service and private sector.

Turkey launched its first criminal trial related to the coup in December and more trials are expected.


Sonmezates, a former brigadier general, was described in the indictment as a leader of the mission, something he denied in court. He also denied charges that he was a member of Gulen’s network.

“It was for the country, for the nation, to stop the decay domestically, to put an end to the bribery, to protect my country from the PKK,” he told the court, referring to the militant Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK).

The suspects, who include Erdogan’s former aide-de-camp, were wearing suits when they were brought from prison to the courthouse. They were met by a crowd of some 200 people waving flags and calling for their execution.

“We want the death penalty. Let the hand that tried to harm our chief be broken,” said one of the protesters, 61-year-old Zuhal Ayhan, referring to Erdogan. “I’d give my life for him.”

Turkey formally abolished the death penalty as part of its 2002 European Union accession talks. Since the coup, crowds have repeatedly called for it to be restored, a move that would likely spell the end of Turkey’s bid to join the EU.

The area around the courthouse was cordoned off and patrolled by dozens of security force members, including police and special forces. Snipers stood on nearby rooftops.

Forty-four defendants were brought in, while three remain at large and are being tried in absentia. The courthouse in Mugla was too small to handle the number of defendants and authorities said the trial was being heard at the conference room of the chamber of commerce next door.

According to the indictment, some 37 soldiers were charged with a having a direct role in the storming of the luxury Grand Yazici Club Turban, others are those who provided assistance to the operation.

The soldiers in helicopters descended on the hotel in Marmaris, on ropes, shooting, just after Erdogan had left.

In an interview with Reuters after the coup, Erdogan said his faith as a Muslim helped him and his family escape unscathed.

(Writing by David Dolan; Editing by Dominic Evans)

Erdogan warns Europe that Turkey could open migrant gates

Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan speaks during a signing ceremony with Belarussian President Alexander Lukashenko in Minsk, Belarus,

By Tulay Karadeniz and Nick Tattersall

ANKARA/ISTANBUL (Reuters) – Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan threatened on Friday to unleash a new wave of migrants on Europe after lawmakers there voted for a temporary halt to Turkey’s EU membership negotiations, but behind the fighting talk, neither side wants a collapse in ties.

Europe’s deteriorating relations with Turkey, a buffer against the conflicts in Syria and Iraq, are endangering a deal which has helped to significantly reduce a migrant influx which saw more than 1.3 million people arrive in Europe last year.

“You clamored when 50,000 refugees came to Kapikule, and started wondering what would happen if the border gates were opened,” Erdogan said in a speech in Istanbul, referring to a Bulgarian border checkpoint where migrants massed last year.

“If you go any further, these border gates will be opened. Neither I nor my people will be affected by these empty threats,” he told a women’s conference, dismissing Thursday’s vote in the European Parliament in Strasbourg.

“Don’t forget, the West needs Turkey.”

The agreement struck in March with Ankara, under which it helps control migration in return for the promise of accelerated EU membership talks and aid, has reduced the influx via Turkey to a trickle. But its neighbors are still struggling to cope.

Clashes broke out at a migrant camp on the Greek island of Lesbos after a fire killed a woman and a 6-year old child late on Thursday, while Bulgaria said it would extradite hundreds of asylum seekers to their native Afghanistan next month after they clashed with riot police.

The vote by the European Parliament in favor of freezing Turkey’s EU accession talks was non-binding and Germany, France and most other EU states back continued engagement, despite their concerns about Turkey’s human rights record.

European leaders fear putting at risk Erdogan’s cooperation on migration at a time when far-right and anti-immigrant parties have seen their popularity rise, particularly with elections next year in France, Germany and Holland.

Sensing Europe’s weakness, Erdogan has repeatedly threatened in recent days that Turkey could “cut its own umbilical cord” and sever ties with the EU, playing migration as his trump card.

But Turkey also needs Europe. The EU is Turkey’s largest trading partner and its 11-year membership negotiations, though long stalled, served in their early years as an important anchor for pro-market reforms and investor confidence.

“Cutting off membership talks would harm both sides. We are aware of this,” said Yasin Aktay, a spokesman for the ruling AK Party, which was founded by Erdogan.

“We support the continuing of relations, we know this will benefit us and them. But if there is a negative step from the other side, we will not be held responsible for the consequences,” he said.


Erdogan is riding a wave of nationalist sentiment after a failed military coup in July, and his emotional criticism of Europe plays well to a domestic audience angered by what it saw as lackluster Western support for Turkey after the attempt.

The European Parliament voted for freezing talks because of what it saw as Turkey’s “disproportionate” reaction to the coup. More than 125,000 people accused of links to the plotters, from soldiers and judges to journalists and doctors, have been dismissed or detained over the past four months.

“There are millions of migrant babies across the world … but no step is being taken. What step is being taken? Debating whether or not Turkey should be in the EU,” Erdogan said.

“We are the ones who feed 3 million refugees. You have not even kept your promises.”

Turkey is home to the world’s largest refugee population, housing some 2.7 million Syrians and 300,000 Iraqis. Erdogan has repeatedly said that promised European aid has been too slow to arrive, a charge rejected by Brussels.

He has said Turkey could hold a referendum on whether or not to continue its EU membership bid, and even floated the idea of becoming a member of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation, a security bloc dominated by China and Russia.

“This is extremely populist rhetoric,” said Sinan Ulgen, a former Turkish diplomat and analyst at Carnegie Europe.

The Shanghai grouping was formed with security, not trade, at its core and can be no substitute for the EU, he said.

“There is no diplomatic preparation to form an alternative relationship with the EU other than full membership at the moment,” he said, adding that there was a high chance of a diplomatic crisis over the migration deal by year-end.

“It is difficult for the migration agreement to continue under these circumstances,” he said.


Under the March deal, Turkey agreed to take back illegal migrants leaving its shores for Greece in return, among other things, for visa-free travel for Turks in Europe. Such visa liberalization looks unlikely to be granted any time soon.

Several EU members nonetheless made clear on Friday they were against freezing Turkey’s negotiations to join the bloc.

“It is important that we keep talking,” German Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Sawsan Chebli told a news conference.

Croatian Foreign Minister Davor Ivo Stier said it was not in the interests of the EU, Croatia, or Slovenia, where he was on an official visit, to suspend talks with Turkey and that “we need a balanced standpoint toward Ankara”.

Before the Balkan migration route was closed in March hundreds of thousands of migrants passed through Croatia and Slovenia toward wealthier western Europe. Both want to keep their borders closed for illegal migrants.

But France criticized Erdogan for threatening Europe.

“We believe one-upmanship and controversies are counterproductive,” French foreign affairs ministry spokesman Alexandre Giorgini said at a news briefing.

(Additional reporting by Ercan Gurses and Tuvan Gumrukcu in Ankara, Daren Butler in Istanbul, Angeliki Koutantou and Renee Maltezou in Athens, Dimitar Kyosemarliev in Harmanli, Paul Carrel in Berlin, Marja Novak in Paris, Writing by Nick Tattersall, Editing by Angus MacSwan)

Turkey detains editor, top staff at opposition newspaper

Supporters of Cumhuriyet newspaper, an opposition secularist daily, hold today's copies during a protest in front of its headquarters in Istanbul, Turkey,

By Humeyra Pamuk and Daren Butler

ISTANBUL (Reuters) – Turkish police detained the editor and senior staff of a leading opposition newspaper on Monday over its alleged support for a failed coup in July, in a move described by a top EU politician as the crossing of a red line against freedom of expression.

Updating earlier information on its website, Cumhuriyet newspaper said 11 staff including the editor were being held by authorities, and arrest warrants had been issued for five more.

Turkey’s crackdown since rogue soldiers tried to seize power on July 15 has alarmed Western allies and rights groups, who fear President Tayyip Erdogan is using the coup attempt to crush dissent. More than 110,000 people have been sacked or suspended and 37,000 arrested over the past three and a half months.

The latest detentions came a day after 10,000 more civil servants were dismissed and 15 more media outlets shut down.

The Istanbul prosecutor’s office said the staff at the paper, one of few media outlets still critical of Erdogan, were suspected of committing crimes on behalf of Kurdish militants and the network of Fethullah Gulen, a U.S.-based cleric. Turkey accuses Gulen of orchestrating the coup attempt, in which he denies any involvement.

“An investigation was launched… due to allegations and assessments that shortly before the attempted coup, material was published justifying the coup,” the prosecutor’s office said.

Cumhuriyet said several of its staff had their laptops seized from their homes. Footage showed one writer, Aydin Engin, 75, being ushered by plain clothes police into a hospital for medical checks.

Asked by reporters to comment on his detention, Engin said: “I work for Cumhuriyet, isn’t that enough?”

Another veteran journalist, Kadri Gursel, who began writing for Cumhuriyet in May, said on Twitter that his house was being searched and that there was an arrest warrant for him.

Several hundred people gathered in front of Cumhuriyet’s Istanbul offices in support of the paper, chanting and holding banners that said “Journalism is not a crime” and “Sharp pens will tear through the dark”.

European Parliament President Martin Schulz wrote on Twitter that the detentions marked the crossing of ‘yet another red-line’ against freedom of expression in Turkey. “The ongoing massive purge seems motivated by political considerations, rather than legal and security rationale,” he said.

The government has said its measures are justified by the threat posed to the state by the coup attempt, in which more than 240 people were killed.

A court on Sunday also jailed, pending trial, the co-mayors of the largely Kurdish city of Diyarbakir. The head of the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) called on opposition groups to stand together against a “tyrannical mentality”.

“We are facing a new phase in the coordinated oppression managed by the AKP headquarters to ensure no opposition remains,” Selahattin Demirtas told reporters. The AKP is the governing party.


Before turning himself in, veteran cartoonist Musa Kart told reporters outside Cumhuriyet’s offices that such means of pressure were not going to succeed in frightening people.

“This is a comical situation,” he said. “It is not possible for people with a conscience to accept this. You can’t explain this to the world. I am being detained solely for drawing caricatures.”

Cumhuriyet’s previous editor, Can Dundar, was jailed last year for publishing state secrets involving Turkey’s support for Syrian rebels. The case sparked censure from rights groups and Western governments worried about worsening human rights in Turkey under Erdogan.

Cumhuriyet said Dundar, who was freed in February and is now abroad, was one of those facing arrest.

“They are attacking ‘the last bastion’,” Dundar wrote on Twitter as news of the operation emerged. A month after the failed coup, Dundar told Reuters he feared the government would attempt to link him to the putsch.

Opposition groups say the purges are being used to silence all dissent in Turkey, a NATO member which aspires to membership of the European Union.

Since the attempted coup, 170 newspapers, magazines, television stations and news agencies have been shut down, leaving 2,500 journalists unemployed, Turkey’s journalists’ association said in a statement protesting the detentions.

“This operation is a new coup against freedom of expression and of the press,” it said, adding that 105 journalists were in jail pending trial and the press cards of 777 journalists had been canceled.

(Writing by Daren Butler; Editing by Nick Tattersall and Mark Trevelyan)

After failed coup, what sort of Turkey does Erdogan want?

A supporter holds a flag depicting Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan during a pro-government demonstration in Ankara, Turkey,

By Luke Baker

ISTANBUL (Reuters) – Looking across Istanbul’s skyline, it is impossible not to be struck by the array of red-and-white, star-and-crescent flags fluttering from buildings, monuments, bridges and flagpoles.

Patriotism in Turkey has always been strong, but in the wake of July’s failed coup by members of the military, President Tayyip Erdogan has tapped freely into the populist, banner-draped fervor to remould the nation in his image.

The questions are, what sort of Turkey does Erdogan want, and what steps will this powerful and sometimes unpredictable leader take to achieve his vision?

The answers could have far-reaching implications for the global role played by the Muslim-majority NATO member, whose assistance is seen in the West as vital in the war against Islamic State and in tackling the migrant crisis.

At one level, diplomats and analysts say, Erdogan has made his aims perfectly clear. In the three months since the coup attempt, authorities have suspended or dismissed 100,000 civil servants, judges, lecturers, military personnel and police – purging some of the most established pillars of society.

Anyone with suspected links to U.S.-based cleric Fethullah Gulen, who Erdogan accuses of masterminding the putsch, is a possible target. Gulen has denied plotting against the state and any involvement in the coup.

More than 30,000 people have been arrested. Five percent of the entire police force has been removed from duty. Whole ministerial departments have been shut down.

Some Western allies fear creeping authoritarianism and a shift toward a political model built around a strong leader and dominant single party but lacking checks and balances in Turkey, whose size, military power and location between Europe, the Middle East and Asia give it significant strategic clout.

“He wants a Turkey where he is the undisputed, unchallenged decider without the constraints of a normal democratic system,” said James Jeffrey, a former U.S. ambassador to Ankara and a senior fellow at the Washington Institute.

“He won’t overturn the constitution or get rid of democracy, but he wants to render the opposition incapable of challenging him and to exercise clear power over them,” he told Reuters.

By contrast, Erdogan’s loyal supporters see him as the champion of the pious masses, forging a proud and independent nation that will not be dictated to by outside powers.

The president and his aides bristle at the notion he is dictatorial. They point to his succession of election victories, first as leader of the ruling AK Party, and then in Turkey’s first popular presidential election in 2014.


But Erdogan’s ambitions likely go further than taking back control and projecting authority.

While the 62-year-old may have no desire to recreate the Ottoman empire, political analysts and diplomats say he wants to draw on that sense of greatness to craft a Turkey that bestrides the world, respected and perhaps a little feared by neighbors and peers.

In speeches and comments before and since the failed putsch, Erdogan has frequently referenced the Ottoman period, when Turkey’s forefathers held territory stretching from southeast Europe to the Caucasus, North Africa and Iraq.

He often laments the concessions made by Turkish leaders after World War One, with the signing of the Treaty of Lausanne that brought modern Turkey into being in 1923, as if to suggest only he can restore the nation’s illustrious past.

“What you’re witnessing in Turkey is tied up with an almost constant desire to reclaim the heritage of the Ottoman empire, which was of course a polyglot, multi-ethnic entity,” said Bulent Aliriza, director of the Turkey project at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington.

“In almost every one of Erdogan’s speeches there are these themes: You can be proud you are a Turk, proud that you are a Muslim, we have influence in our region and beyond. The expression ‘Great Turkey’ is used almost all the time.”

In August, with great symbolism and fanfare, Erdogan inaugurated a new bridge over the Bosphorus between Europe and Asia. The span, the third over the strait, was named after a 16th-century Ottoman ruler, Yavuz Sultan Selim. “Be proud of your power, Turkey,” announced adverts on television.

At the U.N. General Assembly in September, the most high-profile speech Erdogan has made abroad since the failed coup, he expanded on two of his favorite themes: how Turkey helps the oppressed and serves as a role model in the Muslim world, and how power at the United Nations is too narrowly held.

“The world is greater than five,” he said, referring to the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council. “A Security Council that does not represent the entire world can never serve to re-establish peace and justice around the world.”

Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan and his wife Emine Erdogan attend Democracy and Martyrs Rally, organized by him and supported by ruling AK Party (AKP), oppositions Republican People's Party (CHP) and Nationalist Movement Party (MHP), to protest against last month's failed military coup attempt, in Istanbul, Turkey

Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan and his wife Emine Erdogan attend Democracy and Martyrs Rally, organized by him and supported by ruling AK Party (AKP), oppositions Republican People’s Party (CHP) and Nationalist Movement Party (MHP), to protest against last month’s failed military coup attempt, in Istanbul, Turkey, August 7, 2016. REUTERS/Osman Orsal/File Photo


Since coming to power in 2003, first as prime minister and then as president, Erdogan has overseen a period of rapid economic growth and increased regional influence.

While he may have no territorial ambitions, Turkey does have troops in northern Syria, is training militias in Iraq – to the growing concern of the government in Baghdad – and has hopes of turning itself into a regional energy hub, a crossroads between Russia, Iran and the East Mediterranean.

“He’s trying to exercise influence in the region by dint of Turkey’s large and powerful economy and its claim to be an Islamic power,” said Jeffrey. “There is a bit of going back to Ottoman times and going back to Turkish dominance of the region – he wants a more Islamic alternative to the West.”

It appears a popular formula. A poll in late July, two weeks after the coup attempt, showed Erdogan with two-thirds approval among Turkey’s 78 million people, his highest rating ever.

Yet in striving for that more self-confident and perhaps more feared Turkey, Erdogan has at times walked a thin line, straining ties with the European Union and the wider West, which are wary of what they see as his creeping authoritarianism.

Turkey’s $720 billion economy is fueled in large part by trade and investment with Europe. Its working week runs from Monday to Friday to align with business in London and New York, not the rest of the Muslim world. In theory, Turkey still plans to join the European Union and is a central player in NATO.

The country’s annual average growth rate has been tapering, to around 3 percent from 5 percent, and there is a need for a new impetus to bring unemployment down among millions of younger Turks. That requires staying open to the West.

Andrew Duff, a former member of the European Parliament who was vice-chairman of the Turkey-EU joint parliamentary committee, sees Erdogan as “entirely fickle” regarding Europe and focused for now on exploiting Islam and nationalism.

“I’m afraid this is only going to get worse,” said Duff, who has been accused by Turkish authorities of being a “Gulenist”, a charge he dismisses with a laugh. “I’m sure Erdogan’s aim is to remain in power at least until 2023, the centenary of the founding of the republic.”

Duff does not think Erdogan will pivot to the East permanently. But for now, Europe, NATO and the West find themselves with a volatile partner.

“From the historical point of view, it’s fascinating because Turkey is really poised,” said Aliriza. “Whether it continues to look to its nation-state past and its opening to the West, or a hoped-for glorious future in which Turkey will draw closer to its brethren in the East. It’s at a critical juncture.”

(Writing by Luke Baker; Editing by Nick Tattersall and Pravin Char)