Turkey has good news for inmates of its crowded prisons. A decree on August 17th made some 38,000 of them, excluding those convicted of serious crimes such as murder or rape, eligible for parole after serving half their sentences. The aim is to make room for the civil servants, soldiers, journalists and others detained in connection with Turkey’s failed coup—35,000 at the last count.
Having sworn to crush the Gulen movement, an Islamic sect it blames for the coup, Turkey’s government is now taking its purge abroad. The foreign ministry has recalled over 200 diplomats as part of the investigation. Of those, 32 are believed to be on the run. Eight soldiers who flew their helicopter to Greece have claimed asylum there; Turkey has asked for their extradition. It has issued an arrest warrant for Hakan Sukur, a retired football star living in America.
Turkey is also doing what it can to lean on foreign governments to dismantle a chain of Gulenist charities and private schools that spans 160 countries. Some have complied. Somalia recently closed two schools and a hospital. Azerbaijan fired 50 Turkish university teachers linked to the group and launched an investigation into a local Gulenist network. Others are less likely to follow. In many parts of the world the schools offer a decent education, often in English, to the children of local elites. Indonesia and Kenya say they will play no part in a crackdown that conflates pro-coup Turkish bureaucrats with teachers and charity workers. Under Turkish pressure, Albania screened dozens of its own Gulen schools last year for any signs of wrongdoing. It found none.
Turkey’s main target is the movement’s septuagenarian leader, Fethullah Gulen, who has been ensconced in a farmhouse in Pennsylvania since 1999. Turkey’s president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who once praised Mr Gulen, now calls him the coup’s mastermind, and wants him extradited. Other than the testimony of the army’s chief of the general staff, who says that one of the plotters offered to put him on the phone with the preacher, Turkey has not produced compelling evidence against Mr Gulen. “What documents do you need when 265 people have been killed, bombed from jets and run over by tanks?” the prime minister, Binali Yildirim, recently asked. It may take more than that to convince the American courts.
*Editor’s note: Hizmet Movement Blog reaffirms its non-endorsement policy of the various viewpoints expressed throughout the articles that are solely shared for the convenience of the readers.
Published on Economist, 20 August 2016 (date on Europe print edition), Thursday