Council of Europe Head Visits Turkey

Council of Europe Head Visits Turkey

ISTANBUL (AP) -- The head of the Council of Europe, the continent's top human rights organization, arrived in Turkey Wednesday for talks with the country's leadership and opposition officials — the first high-ranking European official to do so after the attempted July 15 coup.

Thorbjorn Jagland was to meet with President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Prime Minister Binali Yildirim, the ministers of foreign affairs and justice, and the heads of opposition parties during his visit to Turkey.

Erdogan has blasted Western allies for what he says is a lack of clear support for the government in the wake of the failed putsch, which killed more than 270 people. On Wednesday, he accused the West of siding with terrorism and noted no European leaders had visited Turkey to express support after the coup.

While governments have denounced the coup attempt, they have also expressed concerns about the crackdown on opposition supporters in Turkey since then.

The government says the coup was instigated by a U.S.-based Muslim cleric, Fethullah Gulen, a former Erdogan ally who lives in self-imposed exile in Pennsylvania and whose extradition Turkey is seeking from the United States. Gulen has denied any involvement in the coup plot, while Washington has asked for evidence of his involvement from Ankara and says the extradition process must be allowed to take its course.

That stance has angered Erdogan and has led to strains in the two countries' relations.

"From now on, everyone who continues to pay attention to the delusions of the charlatan, the chief terrorist, in Pennsylvania, has accepted in advance what will become of them," Erdogan said during a speech at a religious council meeting in Ankara Wednesday.

Turkey has conducted a sweeping crackdown on those suspected of supporting Gulen's movement, which runs schools, charities and businesses across the world. Tens of thousands of people in Turkey have been dismissed or suspended from their jobs in the civil service, education, health care, judiciary, the military and media sectors, while about 18,000 have been detained or arrested, mostly in the military.