RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:
Now let's talk about democracy in Turkey. The country's leaders responded to an attempted coup by arresting, suspending or firing more than 80,000 people. Now officials wonder if they went too far, and they've set up places where people can ask for their jobs back. NPR's Peter Kenyon reports.
PETER KENYON, BYLINE: There aren't many lines at tourist sites in Istanbul's old city these days. But just up the hill, lines are forming outside the district governor's office. This is where Turks caught up in the post-coup purge can finally be heard in their own defense, or in defense of a relative now behind bars.
A slight, elderly man named Necati takes a break at a sidewalk cafe while a relative holds his place in line. He agrees to speak if his last name isn't used. His family can't afford to lose another income, now that his son-in-law is in jail.
Necati says on the night of the coup, his policeman son-in-law was on the job defending against any attempt to take over official buildings. But instead of being rewarded as a patriot, Necati says, a month later they came for him in the dead of night.
NECATI: (Through interpreter) He was on duty 50 hours straight the night of the coup. He fought on the side of the government. And they came to his house at 1:30 in the morning to drag him away in front of his terrified family. This is unjust. He never had anything to do with the Gulen movement or anything like that.
KENYON: Necati mentions Fethullah Gulen, the U.S.-based cleric Turkey accuses of ordering the coup. Gulen denies the charge. Necati hopes these crisis centers will reverse the mistake, though he's worried by something that happened at his son-in-law's first court hearing.
NECATI: (Through interpreter) When he was taken to court after hearing the evidence, the judge actually decided he should be released. But then there was a five-minute break. And when the judge came back, they decided to arrest him. We don't know what happened in those five minutes.
KENYON: Ever since the massive purge began, Turks have been saying hang on, how could this many people have been in on a coup that was so secret everyone missed it? The number of those purged is 80,000 and climbing. And even Turkey's leaders have begun to speak about things getting out of hand.
(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED FOOTAGE)
BINALI YILDIRIM: (Foreign language spoken).
KENYON: Prime Minister Binali Yildirim told reporters if there are any miscalculations, as he put it, they will be reexamined and any mistakes corrected. These crisis centers appear to be part of that effort.
Even President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, seen as the driving force behind the purge, has complained that people who had nothing to do with the attempted coup are being vilified in the media. Investigators have seized on certain actions as evidence of complicity, such as using the same digital messaging app allegedly used by coup plotters, or dealing with a bank linked to the Gulen movement. Critics say such broad methods are bound to entangle innocent people.
The most heavily purged sector is not the military, which attempted the coup, but educators. One attendee at this recent teachers rally in Ankara recorded some of the sound and sent it to NPR. Academic Hakan Kocak said the emergency decree that enabled the roundup of some 27,000 teachers borders on the absurd.
(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)
HAKAN KOCAK: (Foreign language spoken).
KENYON: "That decree means this," he says - "some people you don't know decide you're part of an organization you also don't know. They discover a link they can't explain, and you lose your job overnight."
(SOUNDBITE OF RALLY CHANTING)
KENYON: Teachers syndicate official Adil Tasatan says the government is right to try to prevent future coups, but this sweeping purge of teachers is turning a basic principle of justice on its head.
ADIL TASATAN: (Through interpreter) These crisis centers are a joke. These people have been declared guilty right off the bat, and now they're being told they have to prove their innocence. That's not how justice should work.
KENYON: The government is promising to use extreme care, including throwing out all anonymous accusations. But the purge continues. Dozens more members of the judiciary and the intelligence service were dismissed this week.
Peter Kenyon, NPR News, Istanbul.
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