Excerpts from the interview within days of the July 15-16 failed coup d’etat
Tripti Nath | August 17, 2016
Burak Akçapar, Turkey’s ambassador to India, Nepal, and Maldives, has been a career diplomat since 1987. Before coming to India in 2011, he was deputy director general for political affairs, focusing on South Asia, at the Turkish ministry of foreign affairs for two years. With a doctorate in international law from the University of Hamburg, he has lectured extensively around the world. His latest book, ‘People’s Mission to the Ottoman Empire: M A Ansari and the Indian Medical Mission, 1912-13’, was published by Oxford University Press in 2014. Tripti Nath met Akçapar within days of the July 15-16 failed coup d’etat. Excerpts from the interview:
Would you say that the attempted coup resulted from intelligence failure? Your president Recep Tayyip Erdogan has said that he failed to contact the intelligence chief, Hakan Fidan, on the night of the failed coup. Please elaborate.
The attempted coup resulted from first and foremost the treachery of a stealthy and shadowy organisation called ‘Fethullahist Terror Organisation (FETO)’ which has been burrowed in state structures with a perverted degree of secretiveness and deception. The vestiges of this organisation must be completely rooted out of the state organs and the other key places so that they will not attempt a similar move in future.
World leaders see a threat to democracy in the declaration of emergency after the incident, granting radically enhanced powers to the president. Your government has also announced that it will temporarily suspend the European Convention on Human Rights. How do you justify this move?
FETO which staged this treason has dangerous undercover networks not only in the army but also in several state organs. In the context of the ongoing measures for public order and security, a nationwide state of emergency was declared from July 21 in accordance with our constitution. State of emergency is a measure permissible under international law, taken by states when there is an imminent threat to their security and order, as it is the case with France which has recently extended the countrywide state of emergency for six months.
The Republic of Turkey is fully aware of its obligations – foremost towards its people – related to democracy, human rights, the rule of law and international conventions and due respect will be shown to fundamental rights and freedoms and the principle of supremacy of law will be strictly observed.
Turkey has submitted to the US material related to the extradition of the exiled Islamic cleric, Fethullah Gulen, who your government accuses of masterminding the coup attempt. The US ambassador to Turkey, John Bass, has said that evaluating the case for the extradition of Gulen is a very high priority for Washington. Do you find this reassuring?
We would like to see action rather than words. The Turkish government has been constantly exposing the real motives of this terrorist group and its leader, Fethullah Gulen, to all allies and partners. The foiled coup attempt is the latest criminal act revealing the danger posed by FETO. We believe that as our partner and ally, the US should take necessary measures to remove the head of this terrorist group from their soil and not send him to a third country but directly to Turkey to face trial.
It is being said that the Turkish government’s “purge” following the failed coup is not distinguishing between coup plotters and general critics of president Erdogan. Your comments?
The purpose of the ongoing investigations and dismissals within the state structures is to take required measures in the most speedy and effective manner in the fight against FETO terrorist organisation in order to save our nation from this terror network and return to normalcy as soon as possible. In this process, utmost care will continue to be shown to uphold our democracy and the fundamental rights of our citizens within the rule of law.
World leaders have voiced concern over pictures showing rough treatment to some of the arrested coup plotters, some of whom were stripped to their underwear and handcuffed behind their back.
The terrorist coup plotters have attacked the constitutional order, the democratically elected government, bombarded the parliament and massacred our people. We believe that the sympathies of our friends rest with the innocent and unarmed civilians who have been shot point blank, mowed down by tank palettes, as well as the policemen and soldiers who have been blindsided and killed by the coup plotters. We will continue to strongly uphold standards of human rights for even the vilest criminals perpetrating such despicable acts.
The crackdown in the wake of the failed coup has seen attacks on the judiciary, military and media. Turkey has blocked access to WikiLeaks after nearly 300,000 emails from the ruling party were posted online in response to government’s post-coup purges. On the one hand your government is suppressing information and on the other hand, it is assuring citizens that they will be able to lead normal lives.
Only a week ago fighter jets, tanks rolled on the streets firing at the presidential complex, the parliament and the people. Turkey is acting quickly and decisively with a view to fully unearthing the secretive criminal FETO network in order to make sure that infiltration and ultimately a coup attempt could never again be made. Normalcy is contingent on the investigations, interrogations, trials being conducted thoroughly, in accordance with the law, and expeditiously.
Turkey had abolished death penalty in 2004 as part of the reforms needed to enter accession negotiations with the EU. Now your president has said he would bring back death penalty if people want it, though the EU’s foreign policy chief, Federica Mogherini, has warned your government not to take steps that would damage the constitutional order.
The people of Turkey demand action and justice vis-a-vis the perpetrators of the coup attempt which have claimed so many innocent lives. Ms. Mogherini’s statement was unwise and even counterproductive. The fact of the matter is that the decision will be taken by the Turkish parliament. It is not right to rush and speculate on how the parliament would decide.
An ally of German chancellor Angela Merkel urged the EU to suspend accession talks with Turkey over a purge launched by the government against suspected plotters of last week’s failed coup. This comes after Merkel told your president that Turkey cannot join the EU if it reinstates the death penalty. How would your government address this?
There is a strong popular call currently for the reinstitution of capital punishment. Many countries including India have it. Whether Turkey will reinstate it shall be decided by the Turkish people.
Turkey decides its policies at its own constitutional fora. And the way Turkey’s accession process has been mishandled by the EU for decades, Turkish people have come to believe, gives no weight in the high court of Turkish public opinion to the words of European leaders.
It is feared that Turkey’s failed coup would have disastrous consequences for Europe’s migrant crisis.
We do not foresee an impact to that effect.
Do you think FETO has a presence in India? Have you taken up this matter with the Indian government?
I want to discuss this with Indian officials, not publicly.
What are your expectations from India at this critical juncture?
I am happy that the minister of external affairs, Sushma Swaraj, quickly issued a statement expressing solidarity with Turkey. As a fellow democracy and a country that has suffered from terrorism I have no doubt that India would continue to stand solidly on our side.
The failed coup and its aftermath have hit your tourism sector badly. What measures is your government taking to ensure a climate of political stability?
The main backbone of the coup plotters has been captured and legal processes have begun. Our government and our nation will remain vigilant. Turkey will bounce back very quickly. I understand tourist flows have already resumed.
India has advised its nationals not to travel to Turkey till the situation becomes normal. What confidence-building measures is your government taking to assure the Indian community in Turkey of their safety?
We have experienced an outrageous event and the country is dressing its wounds. Except for the investigations and the legal cases, we expect Turkey to bounce back quickly and decisively. I advise Indian citizens in Turkey to follow the announcements by Turkish authorities and the Indian representations in Turkey.
Does it bother you that a number of football stars including German striker Mario Gomez and Dutch forward Robin van Persie have decided to leave your country due to the political situation?
I have not followed why they would be leaving. But I know that other top players are staying on and more are coming in. n
(The interview appears in the August 16-31, 2016 issue)
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