Turkey lifts state of emergency after two years

Turkey lifted a state of emergency Thursday, two years after a dramatic coup attempt nearly toppled President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

The news was announced by the state-run Anadolu news agency.

“To enact a state of emergency, the government must foresee serious indications of widespread violence which may interfere with the democratic environment or basic constitutional rights and freedoms of its citizens,” it said in a report.

A state of emergency was declared on July 20, 2016, after the deadly coup attempt left at least 290 people dead and more than 1,400 injured in a chaotic night of violence.

Tanks rolled into the streets of Turkey’s two largest cities as soldiers blocked the famous Bosphorus Bridge in Istanbul, bombs struck the parliament building in the capital Ankara, and a helicopter stolen by rogue pilots was shot down by an F-16 jet.

President Erdogan was hundreds of miles away at a seaside resort when the coup, mounted by a faction of the military, got underway. By the time Erdogan emerged to address the nation via FaceTime hours later, it had already begun to fizzle.

Thousands of alleged plotters were rounded up the following day, as Erdogan claimed his exiled former ally Fethullah Gulen was behind the attempt, a charge the US-based cleric denied.

Turkey has been under a state of emergency since then, and Erdogan has tightened his grip on power while overseeing a massive purge of those who he says rose up against him.

Erdogan was reelected last month, seeing off the most serious challenge yet to his political dominance in a vote which granted him unprecedented power to shape the future of Turkey.

Responding to the lifting of the emergency order Thursday, Fotis Filippou, Amnesty International’s deputy Europe director, said it was a “step in the right direction,” but needed to be accompanied by “urgent measures if it is to be anything more than a cosmetic exercise.”

“Over the last two years, Turkey has been radically transformed with emergency measures used to consolidate draconian powers, silence critical voices and strip away basic rights. Many will remain in force following the lifting of the state of emergency,” Filippou said.

He added that tens of thousands of people had been “locked up by a judiciary that lacks the most basic independence and incarcerates real or perceived critics of the government without evidence of any actions that can reasonably constitute offenses.”

“The lifting of the state of emergency alone will not reverse this crackdown,” Filippou said. “What is needed is systematic action to restore respect for human rights, allow civil society to flourish again and lift the suffocating climate of fear that has engulfed the country.”