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Turkey sacks or suspends hundreds of judges, prosecutors in coup probe

Turkey's President Tayyip Erdogan

The Turkish Armed Forces sacked 109 military judges on Thursday, the defence ministry said, further extending a crackdown which has targeted tens of thousands of state employees as part of an investigation into an attempted coup in July.

Judicial authorities also suspended another 184 judges and prosecutors, adding to a stream of dismissals and arrests which Ankara says are aimed at rooting out supporters of U.S.-based cleric Fethullah Gulen, who Ankara says masterminded the putsch.

Gulen denies accusations he was behind the coup, during which more than 240 people, including civilians, were killed as rogue soldiers used jets, helicopters and tanks to bomb government institutions, including the parliament.

Some 32,000 people have been jailed pending trial and 100,000 members of the security and civil services, teachers and others have been fired or suspended from work in the crackdown.

State-run Anadolu Agency said the 184 judges and prosecutors were suspended for using a messaging app called ByLock. Turkey’s intelligence agency identified some 56,000 users of ByLock which Gulen’s followers began using in 2014, officials have said.

A total 3,456 judges and prosecutors have been expelled from the judiciary under the coup investigation, Anadolu said.

The defence ministry move brought the number of sacked military judges to 209 of the total 468 before the coup, according to the privately-owned Dogan news agency.

Among those dismissed were the former legal advisors to the chief of general staff and the air force.

Concerns have been voiced about the crackdown’s impact on state institutions, and the coast guard command on Thursday carried on its website a notice seeking 760 new soldiers.

On Wednesday, Turkish authorities issued arrest warrants for 215 more police officers and the defence ministry said the armed forces had dismissed more than 200 personnel.

The purges within the armed forces, NATO’s second largest, has resulted in thousands of soldiers being discharged, and around 40 percent of generals.

President Tayyip Erdogan vowed to restructure the military after the coup and the coast guard command was brought under interior ministry control and its commander dismissed.

In its notice, the coast guard command said it would hire 50 officers, 105 sergeants, and 605 privates under contracts, and announced applicants must have no links to any “terrorist organisation or its legal and illegal extensions”.

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