Turkey's Erdogan orders closure of more schools, extends detention period

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[July 23, 2016]    ISTANBUL (Reuters) - Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan has ordered the closure of more than 1,000 private schools and extended the period in which some suspects can be detained without charge, in his first decree since declaring a three-month state of emergency.

Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan attends an interview with Reuters at the Presidential Palace in Ankara, Turkey, July 21, 2016. REUTERS/Umit Bektas

Erdogan declared the state of emergency late on Wednesday saying it would enable authorities to swiftly and effectively root out supporters of last weekend's failed military coup in which at least 246 people were killed.

The state of emergency allows the president and government to pass laws without first having to win parliamentary support and also allows them to curb or suspend rights and freedoms as they deem necessary.

Turkish authorities have already launched a series of mass purges of the armed forces, police, judiciary and education system, targeting followers of a U.S.-based Muslim cleric, Fethullah Gulen, whom Erdogan has accused of masterminding the failed coup. The reclusive 75-year-old Gulen denies the charge.

The first decree signed by Erdogan authorizes the closure of 1,043 private schools, 1,229 charities and foundations, 19 trade unions, 15 universities and 35 medical institutions over suspected links to the Gulen movement, the state news agency Anadolu reported on Saturday.

Erdogan has also approved the extension of the period in which certain suspects can be detained to 30 days from a maximum of four days, Anadolu said. The period has been extended to facilitate a full investigation into the coup attempt.

Parliament must still approve the decree but requires only a simply majority, which the ruling AK Party founded by Erdogan and in power in Turkey since 2002 commands.

In an address to lawmakers late on Friday Erdogan vowed to bring to justice supporters of the Gulenist "terrorist" movement. He also inspected damaged parts of the parliament building in Ankara that were strafed by the coup plotters during last weekend's violence.

(Reporting by Gareth Jones and Humeyra Pamuk Editing by Jeremy Gaunt)

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