Turkey widens post-coup purge, demands Washington hand over cleric

2016-07-18 19:08:38

ISTANBUL/ANKARA Turkey purged its police on Monday after rounding up thousands of soldiers in the wake of a failed military coup, and said it could reconsider its friendship with the United States unless Washington hands over a cleric Ankara blames for the putsch.The sacking of thousands of police officers followed orders for the detention of thousands of judges and prosecutors in the aftermath of Friday night's coup, in which more than 200 people were killed when a faction of the armed forces tried to seize power.The swift response, including calls to reinstate the death penalty for plotters, drew concern from Western allies who said Ankara must uphold the rule of law in the country, a NATO member that is Washington's most powerful Muslim ally.Thousands of members of the armed forces, from foot soldiers to commanders, were rounded up on Sunday, some shown in photographs stripped to their underpants and handcuffed on the floors of police buses and a sports hall. Several thousand prosecutors and judges have also been removed. A senior security official told Reuters that 8,000 police officers, including in the capital Ankara and the biggest city Istanbul, had been removed from their posts on suspicion of links to Friday's coup bid.Thirty regional governors and more than 50 high-ranking civil servants have also been dismissed, CNN Turk said. Annual leave was suspended for more than 3 million civil servants, and those already on leave were ordered back to their posts.In the latest violence, an unidentified assailant burst into the office of the deputy mayor of a district in Istanbul and shot him in the head.Prime Minister Binali Yildirim said 7,543 people had so far been detained, including 6,038 soldiers.Turkey blames the failed coup on Fethullah Gulen, a cleric based in the United States who has a wide following in Turkey and denies any involvement. Ankara has demanded Washington hand him over. Washington says it is prepared to extradite him but only if Turkey provides evidence linking him to crime. Yildirim rejected that demand."We would be disappointed if our (American) friends told us to present proof even though members of the assassin organization are trying to destroy an elected government under the directions of that person," Yildirim said."At this stage there could even be a questioning of our friendship," Yildirim added.Yildirim said 232 people were killed in Friday night's violence, 208 of them civilians, police and loyalist soldiers, and a further 24 coup plotters. Officials previously said the overall death toll was more than 290.ERDOGAN'S PLANE IN REBEL SIGHTS Around 1,400 others were wounded as soldiers commandeered tanks, attack helicopters and fighter jets in their bid to seize power, strafing parliament and the intelligence headquarters and trying to seize the main airport and bridges in Istanbul.The coup crumbled after President Tayyip Erdogan, on holiday at the coast, phoned in to a television news program and called for his followers to take to the streets. He was able to fly into Istanbul in the early hours of Saturday, after rebel pilots had his plane in their sights but did not shoot it down.On Sunday he told crowds of supporters, called to the streets by the government and by mosques across the country, that parliament must consider their demands to apply the death penalty for the plotters."We cannot ignore this demand," he told a chanting crowd outside his house in Istanbul late on Sunday. "In democracies, whatever the people say has to happen."He called on Turks to take to the streets every evening until Friday, and late into Sunday night his supporters thronged squares and streets, honking horns and waving flags.Turkey gave up the death penalty in 2004 as part of a program of reforms required to become a candidate to join the EU. Germany said on Monday that Turkey would lose its EU status if it reinstates the death penalty.Yildirim said Turkey should not act hastily over the death penalty but could not ignore the demands of its people. The bloodshed shocked the nation of almost 80 million, where the army last used force to stage a successful coup more than 30 years ago, and shattered fragile confidence in the stability of a NATO member state already rocked by Islamic State suicide bombings and an insurgency by Kurdish militants.NTV television reported that Cemil Candas, deputy mayor of Istanbul's Sisli district, was in critical condition after being shot in the head by an assailant in his office on Monday. It was not immediately clear whether the attack was connected to the failed coup. Sisli district is controlled by an opposition party which, like other groups in parliament, opposed the coup.Western countries said they supported Erdogan's government but Ankara should abide by the rule of law."We stand squarely on the side of the elected leadership in Turkey. But we also firmly urge the government of Turkey to maintain calm and stability throughout the country," U.S. Secretary of State Kerry told a news briefing in Brussels where he attended a gathering of European counterparts."We also urge the government of Turkey to uphold the highest standards of respect for the nation's democratic institutions and the rule of law. We will certainly support bringing the perpetrators of the coup to justice but we also caution against a reach that goes well beyond that."Referring to Gulen, Kerry called on Turkey to furnish evidence "that withstands scrutiny", rather than allegations.EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini also called on Ankara to avoid steps that would damage the constitutional order."We were the first ... during that tragic night to say that the legitimate institutions needed to be protected," she told reporters on arrival at the EU foreign ministers meeting. "We are the ones saying today rule of law has to be protected in the country," she said. "There is no excuse for any steps that take the country away from that."Turkey's pro-Kurdish HDP opposition, parliament's third largest party, said it would not support any government proposal to reintroduce the death penalty. The main CHP opposition said the response to the coup attempt must be conducted within the rule of law and that the plotters should face trial. "HEAVY BLOW" TO MILITARYTurkish security forces are still searching for some of the soldiers involved in the coup bid in various cities and rural areas but there is no risk of a renewed bid to seize power, a senior security official told Reuters.The official said Turkey's military command had been dealt "a heavy blow in terms of organization" but was still functioning in coordination with the intelligence agency, police and the government. Some high-ranking military officials involved in the plot have fled abroad, he said.Erdogan has long accused Gulen of trying to create a "parallel state" within the courts, police, armed forces and media. Gulen, in turn, has said the coup attempt may have been staged, casting it as an excuse for Erdogan to forge ahead with his purge of the cleric's supporters from state institutions.The swift rounding up of judges and others indicated the government had prepared a list beforehand, the EU commissioner dealing with Turkey's membership bid, Johannes Hahn, said."I'm very concerned. It is exactly what we feared," he said in Brussels.A Turkish official acknowledged that Gulen's followers in the armed forces had been under investigation for some time, but denied that an arrest list had been prepared in advance."In our assessment, this group acted out of a sense of emergency when they realized that they were under investigation. There was a list of people who were suspected of conspiring to stage a coup," the official said."There was no arrest list. There was a list of people suspected of planning a coup." (Additional reporting by Alastair Macdonald and Robert-Jan Bartunek in Brussels, Francois Murphy in Vienna, Ece Toksabay, Gulsen Solaker and Dasha Afanasieva in Ankara, Can Sezer, David Dolan, Ayla Jean Yackley and Asli Kandemir in Istanbul; Writing by Nick Tattersall and Peter Graff, editing by Peter Millership)

Theresa May set to replace Cameron as rival quits UK PM race

2016-07-11 17:43:52

LONDON Interior minister Theresa May is set to become Britain's first woman prime minister since Margaret Thatcher after her only rival abruptly quit the race on Monday, removing the need for a drawn-out leadership contest.May, 59, was left as the only candidate to succeed David Cameron, who announced he was stepping down after Britons voted last month to leave the European Union. Britain's planned withdrawal has weakened the 28-nation bloc and created huge uncertainty over trade and investment.May and energy minister Andrea Leadsom had been due to contest a ballot of around 150,000 Conservative party members, with the result to be declared by Sept. 9. But Leadsom unexpectedly withdrew on Monday, opening the way for May to take over much sooner.Her victory means that the complex process of extricating Britain from the EU will be led by someone who favored a vote to Remain in last month's membership referendum.Leadsom, 53, has never served in cabinet and was barely known to the British public until she emerged as a prominent voice in the successful Leave campaign.She had been strongly criticized over a newspaper interview in which she appeared to suggest that being a mother meant she had more of a stake in the country's future than May, who has no children. Some Conservatives said they were disgusted by the remarks, for which Leadsom later apologized, while others said they showed naivety and a lack of judgment.Leadsom told reporters she was pulling out of the race because a nine-week leadership campaign was highly undesirable at such a critical time. She acknowledged that May had secured much stronger backing in a vote of Conservative members of parliament last week."Strong leadership is needed urgently to begin the work of withdrawing from the European Union," Leadsom said."I have ... concluded that the interests of our country are best served by the immediate appointment of a strong and well supported prime minister. I am therefore withdrawing from the leadership election and I wish Theresa May the very greatest success. I assure her of my full support."May, who has served as interior minister for the past six years, is now set to become Britain's second female prime minister after Thatcher, although it was not clear exactly how soon that would happen. Graham Brady, head of the Conservative party committee in charge of the leadership contest, said there were still constitutional procedures to be observed before her appointment could be confirmed, but he aimed to make a confirmation announcement as soon as possible."We're not discussing coronations, we're discussing a proper procedural process which should conclude very soon," he told reporters. The pound, which has hit 31-year lows since the June 23 referendum vote on concern about potential damage to the British economy, bounced briefly on the prospect that the Conservative leadership question would be resolved much sooner than expected.It later surrendered its gains, and by 1243 GMT (8:43 a.m. EDT) was trading down 0.1 percent at around $1.2938, far below the $1.50 it had touched on the night of the referendum. FORGING NEW ROLEIn a speech earlier on Monday in the central city of Birmingham, May set out her vision for the economy, calling for "a country that works for everyone, not just the privileged few".In a pitch for the political center, she said she would prioritize more house-building, a crackdown on tax evasion by individuals and companies, lower energy costs and a narrowing of the 'unhealthy' gap between the pay of employees and corporate bosses."In the coming weeks I will set out (how) to take our economy through this period of uncertainty, to get the economy growing strongly across all parts, to deal with Britain's long-standing productivity problem, to create more well-paid jobs, to negotiate the best terms for Britain's departure from the EU and to forge a new role for ourselves in the world," she said.Her ally Chris Grayling said she was returning to London and would make a statement later on Monday. May favored the 'Remain' side during last month's referendum campaign. But she repeated her new mantra that "Brexit means Brexit", saying there could be no second referendum and no attempt to rejoin the EU by the back door."As prime minister, I will make sure that we leave the European Union," she said."The British people were given their opportunity to vote on this... They've given us a very clear message, and I think we respond to that message and we do what the British people have asked us to."The 52-48 percent vote to quit the EU after 43 years of membership has shaken financial markets because the complex divorce process creates huge uncertainty for business, trade and investment.It has thrown both Britain's major political parties into upheaval. Minutes before Leadsom's announcement, opposition Labour lawmaker Angela Eagle said she would challenge Jeremy Corbyn for the leadership of the party.Corbyn was elected last year with overwhelming support from grassroots Labour activists. He has ignored a vote of no confidence from the party's lawmakers, saying he has a responsibility to carry out that mandate."Jeremy Corbyn is unable to provide the leadership that this party needs -- I believe I can," Eagle said. (Reporting by Mark Trevelyan; Editing by Sonya Hepinstall)

Red, white and extra blue as tight security marks U.S. July 4th celebrations

2016-07-05 11:29:41

NEW YORK The United States celebrated the July Fourth holiday on Monday with parades, baking contests and picnics draped in red, white and an extra layer of blue, as police ramped up patrols because of concerns about terrorism and gun violence.Millions of Americans marked independence from Britain with celebrations as boisterous as a music-packed party by country music legend Willie Nelson for 10,000 people at a race track in Austin, Texas, and as staid as colonial-era costumed actors reading the Declaration of Independence at the U.S. National Archives in Washington. [nL8N19M5Q0]"It's a good day for reflecting on the positive things about America - the sense of freedom that you can go after and achieve whatever you want," said Helen Donaldson, 48, the mother of a multi-ethnic family of four adopted teens living in Maplewood, New Jersey.Donaldson, a white Australian immigrant, cheered with her two New Jersey-born African-American daughters, both 12 and dressed in red, white and blue, as a recording of the Star Spangled Banner played to kick off a children's relay race. Nearby, in the baking contest tent, 13-year-old Nate Fisher entered his cherry blueberry tart into competition."I have high hopes," he said, flashing a smile.History was made in the traditional hotdog-eating contest at New York's Coney Island when long-time champion Joey "Jaws" Chestnut took back the Mustard Yellow International Belt from last year's upstart winner Matt Stonie. Chestnut set an unofficial new world record by downing 70 hotdogs in 10 minutes - topping his previous record of 69 franks. In the women's division, Miki Sudo successfully defended her title by eating 38 hotdogs in 10 minutes.With the holiday taking place days after attacks in Baghdad, Dhaka and Istanbul, the New York Police Department deployed eight new "vapor wake" dogs, trained to sniff out explosives on a moving target in a crowd. [nL1N19N1X6] The department's presence this holiday was boosted by nearly 2,000 new officers just days after they graduated on Friday from the New York City Police Academy."You're going to see a lot of people in heavy vests, helmets and long guns and they can respond at a moment's notice to any incident," NYPD Chief of Department James O'Neill told a news conference. "There's also a lot you won't see." CHICAGO BRACED FOR VIOLENCEPolice in Chicago, which has seen a spike in gun murders this year, announced a stepped-up presence with more than 5,000 officers on patrol over the long weekend, traditionally one of the year's most violent, said Chicago Police Superintendent Eddie Johnson.The Chicago Tribune said at least three people had been killed and 34 wounded over the holiday weekend by Monday evening. Dry weather forecasts across the country thrilled fireworks lovers, although some spots in Michigan have been so rain-starved that pyrotechnic shows were canceled in a handful of communities near Detroit because of the risk of fires. A 19-year-old tourist in New York's Central Park suffered a severe foot wound on Sunday after an apparent homemade firework exploded when he jumped off a rock and stepped on the device, authorities said. [nL1N19P0CH]In Compton, California, a 9-year-old girl's hand had to be amputated when she was injured after unwittingly picking up a lit firework, media said. In New York, more than a million people packed balconies, rooftops and the East River's banks for the 40th annual Macy's Fireworks display, which the department store said showcased more than 56,000 pyrotechnic shells and effects.The musical accompaniment featured the United States Air Force Band playing patriotic numbers including "This Land is Your Land" and "Stars and Stripes Forever," and Grammy-winning vocalist Jennifer Holliday will sing "America the Beautiful." (Reporting by Barbara Goldberg; Additional reporting by Gina Cherelus and Daniel Wallis in New York, Fiona Ortiz in Chicago, Adam DeRose in Washington, and Jon Herskovitz in Austin, Texas; Editing by Bill Rigby and Phil Berlowitz)

Supreme Court set to decide major abortion case

2016-06-27 16:24:24

WASHINGTON The U.S. Supreme Court is due on Monday to decide its first major abortion case since 2007, a challenge by abortion providers to a Republican-backed Texas law that imposed strict regulations on their doctors and facilities.Hundreds of people, including activists on both sides of the dispute, gathered outside the Supreme Court building on a sunny summer day in anticipation of a ruling on an issue that continues to divide Americans as it does people in many countries.Texas has said its law, passed by a Republican-led legislature and signed by a Republican governor in 2013, was aimed at protecting women's health. The abortion providers have said the regulations are medically unnecessary and intended to shut down clinics. Since the law was passed, the number of abortion clinics in Texas, the second-most-populous U.S. state with about 27 million people, has dropped from 41 to 19.The justices must decide whether the law, one of a number of statutes enacted in Republican-led states that put restrictions on abortion, placed an undue burden on women exercising their constitutional right to end a pregnancy established in the court's landmark 1973 Roe v. Wade ruling.The normally nine-justice court was left one member short after the Feb. 13 death of conservative Justice Antonin Scalia, who consistently opposed abortion in past rulings. The court is evenly divided with four conservative justices and four liberals, raising the possibility of a 4-4 ruling.Such a split would leave in place a lower-court decision upholding the law but would set no nationwide legal precedent on whether other states could enact similar measures. Democratic President Barack Obama's administration supports the challenge brought by the abortion providers.Monday marks the last day that the court will be issuing decisions in its current term, which began last October.The Texas law required abortion doctors to have "admitting privileges," a type of formal affiliation that can be hard to obtain, at a hospital within 30 miles (48 km) of the clinic so they can treat patients needing surgery or other critical care. The law also required clinic buildings to possess costly, hospital-grade facilities. These regulations covered numerous building features such as corridor width, the swinging motion of doors, floor tiles, parking spaces, elevator size, ventilation, electrical wiring, plumbing, floor tiling and even the angle that water flows from drinking fountains.The "admitting privileges" provision already has gone into effect while the facilities standards have been put on hold.The last time the justices decided a major abortion case was nine years ago when they ruled 5-4 to uphold a federal law banning a late-term abortion procedure. Some U.S. states have pursued a variety of restrictions on abortion, including banning certain types of procedures, prohibiting it after a certain number of weeks of gestation, requiring parental permission for girls until a certain age, imposing waiting periods or mandatory counseling, and others.Americans remain closely divided over whether abortion should be legal. In a Reuters/Ipso online poll involving 6,769 U.S. adults conducted from June 3 to June 22, 47 percent of respondents said abortion generally should be legal and 42 percent said it generally should be illegal.Views on abortion in the United States have changed very little over the decades, according to historical polling data. (Reporting by Lawrence Hurley; Additional reporting by Adfam DeRose; Editing by Will Dunham)

Southwest Airlines to postpone delivery of 67 Boeing jets

2016-06-24 01:41:59

Southwest Airlines Co (LUV.N) will push back the delivery of 67 Boeing Co (BA.N) 737 MAX 8 aircraft by up to six years, delaying $1.9 billion of spending, the airline said Thursday.The budget airline said it postponed the new deliveries to the 2023-25 timeframe to manage its capital spending. It also said in an investor presentation that the revenue environment remained "challenging."Shares of Boeing and Southwest fell after the announcement, which raised concern among investors about how long planemakers such as the Chicago-based planemaker can sustain demand for new jets, following years of orders that have created a sizeable production backlog. Southwest shares retraced much of their losses in later trading, while Boeing was up as part of a broad market rally linked to optimism that Britain would remain in the European Union. [.N] "We don't see one airline having an impact on Boeing's current plans for narrowbody production," said RBC Capital Markets analyst Robert Stallard in a research note. However, he said the news was not assuring to investors."Having a well known, well run customer like Southwest deferring aircraft is likely to prompt concern that there are others to follow," Stallard said. Boeing shares dipped after the news but were up more than 1 percent at the New York Stock Exchange's close.In a statement, a Boeing spokesman said, "We continue to see healthy demand in the single-aisle market, with the Next-Generation 737 sold out of positions and the MAX sold out through 2021 ...We were also able to find a mutually-beneficial way to sequence the growth of Southwest’s 737 fleet over the long term." The new schedule does not change Southwest's debut as the first operator of the MAX 8 aircraft next year.Southwest shares fell as much 5.1 percent in afternoon trading but were only down 1.7 percent at the close.Dallas-based Southwest earlier said it moved up plans to retire its classic Boeing 737 jets to the third quarter of 2017 from 2018. The move was in part aimed at resolving uncertainty about U.S.-mandated pilot training for flying those aircraft and their next-generation model, the 737 MAX. Stallard said the early retirements suggest that airlines' move to fly older, less efficient planes while fuel was cheap "has potentially run its course, with oil back at $50."Southwest said Thursday it would advance six orders for 737-800 planes to next year from 2018 to help cover these early retirements. (Reporting by Ankit Ajmera in Bengaluru and Jeffrey Dastin in New York; Editing by Kirti Pandey and David Gregorio)

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