Europe's Top Human Rights Group Urges Greater Support for Turkey After Failed Coup

Council of Europe head Thorbjorn Jagland says during Turkey visit that there has been 'too little understanding in Europe' of the challenges posed by the thwarted July 15 coup.

Council of Europe head Thorbjorn Jagland (left) meets with Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu in Ankara, August 3, 2016.
Adem Altan/AFP

The head of the Council of Europe, the continent's top human rights organization, said Wednesday there had been "too little understanding" from Europe about the challenges facing Turkey in the aftermath of a failed July 15 coup.

Thorbjorn Jagland was the first high-ranking European official to visit Turkey after the attempted coup which left more than 270 people dead.

"Turkey is such an important European country," Jagland said. "It is important for the whole of the continent. It is important that we do all that we can to help Turkey get through this process."

President Recep Tayyip 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.

On Wednesday, he accused the West of siding with terrorism and complained that no European leaders had visited Turkey to express support after the coup.

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 is seeking his extradition. Gulen denies involvement.

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.

While governments have denounced the coup attempt, they have also expressed concerns about the scope of the ensuing crackdown.

"I recognize that of course that there is a need for taking on those who are behind this coup and also on this secret network which had been in the state institutions, in the army and also in the judiciary," Jagland said after talks with Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu.

"I would like to say that there had been too little understanding in Europe on what challenges this has caused to the democratic institutions and the state institutions of Turkey," he said, adding that this needed to be dealt with.

"But it is also very important that this is being done in conformity with (European) law, and standards of the European Convention of Human Rights and the case law of the court of Human Rights which is a very good guidance," he said.

The Turkish government, and Erdogan in particular, has been angered by what they say is a delay in the extradition of Gulen from the U.S., and the issue has strained relations between the two NATO allies. Washington has asked for evidence of Gulen's involvement in the coup attempt and says the extradition process must be allowed to take its course.

That stance has soured 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 earlier Wednesday.