Turkish police raided the country’s biggest courthouse and two other halls of justice in Istanbul on Monday, detaining dozens of judicial personnel as part of their investigation into last month’s attempted military coup.
The raid on the Palace of Justice, which has hosted some of Turkey’s most important trials, was a powerful symbol of a post-coup crackdown that has purged Turkey’s military, law-and-order, education and justice systems since the failed putsch.
Plain clothes police officers held the arms of the detainees as they escorted them out of the building and into waiting cars.
Warrants had been issued for 173 judicial staff, of whom 136 were detained in the raid, the state-run Anadolu agency said.
More than 35,000 people have been detained, of whom 17,000 have been placed under formal arrest, and tens of thousands more suspended since the July 15 putsch, which authorities blame on U.S.-based Muslim cleric Fethullah Gulen and his followers.
President Tayyip Erdogan demands the United States extradite Gulen, and the purge is straining relations with Western allies who Turkish officials say appear more concerned by the crackdown than the failed coup that killed 240 people, mostly civilians.
Police were searching offices at the main courthouse in Istanbul’s Caglayan district as well as at two other courthouses on the European side of the city, Anadolu said.
The homes of those being detained were also being searched, it said. In the crackdown since the abortive coup, more than 76,000 civil servants, judges and security force members have been suspended and nearly 5,000 dismissed, Prime Minister Binali Yildirim said on Saturday.
Western officials are concerned the purge will impact stability in the Nato member and a key partner in their war on Islamic State in neighbouring Iraq and Syria.
Turkish officials counter they are confronting an major internal threat. With tensions rising with the West, Turkey has sought to normalise relations with Russia, sparking concerns Erdogan and Russian President Vladimir Putin might use their detente to pressure Washington and the European Union. -Reuters