Amnesty slams Turkey over 'arbitrary' crackdown on employees

ISTANBUL — A leading human rights group has slammed Turkey for dismissing tens of thousands of public employees after last summer's failed coup, saying the move has had a "catastrophic impact" on their lives and means of earning a living.

In a report published Monday, Amnesty International said that the massive crackdown following the July 15 coup attempt has left teachers, academics, doctors, police officers and soldiers branded as "terrorists," unable to return to their careers, and has forced them to rely on savings, the support of friends or family or take on irregular jobs.

More than 100,000 public servants have been dismissed and banned from civil service through decrees issued under the state of emergency for alleged connections to groups listed as terror organizations.  More than 47,000 people have also been arrested for alleged links to the coup.

The government says the purge is necessary to weed out followers of U.S.-based cleric Fethullah Gulen, who is blamed for orchestrating the coup, and combat terror.  

The government has also said it is forming an appeals commission to review the cases of those who insist they were wrongfully dismissed. But Amnesty said the commission lacks independence to make it effective.

Amnesty says the dismissals have been arbitrary and links to terror groups unproven, devastating the lives of the individuals and their families. The purged employees have had their passports canceled, blocking them from seeking employment abroad.

"The authorities must end these arbitrary dismissals immediately, and reinstate all those who are found not to be guilty of wrongdoing," said Andrew Gardner, Amnesty's researcher on Turkey. "Those who have been dismissed should be given access to a swift and effective appeal procedure in order that they can clear their names, be compensated and return to their careers."

On Monday, authorities raided the homes of academic Nuriye Gulmen and teacher Semih Ozakca in Ankara and detained them. The two had been on a hunger strike — refusing food but drinking liquids — for more than 70 days to protest their dismissals under the state of emergency.

Kemal Kilicdaroglu, the leader of Turkey's main opposition party, called for their immediate release and for them to be reinstated to their former jobs, accusing the government of regarding "anyone who stands up for their rights as a threat."

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This story has been corrected to show that the surname of one of the hunger strikers is Gulmen, not Akman.

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