Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has proclaimed a three-month state of emergency in the aftermath of the military coup attempt last week that resulted in more than 200 dead but failed to overthrow his government.
The state of emergency will allow the president and cabinet to bypass parliament in passing new laws and to limit or suspend rights and freedoms as they deem necessary.
Still, Erdogan — who has launched mass purges of state institutions since the July 15 coup attempt, including the jailing or removal of thousands of military officers and bureaucrats — said the move was fully in line with Turkey's constitution and did not violate the rule of law or basic freedoms of Turkish citizens.
He made the announcement in a live television broadcast in front of government ministers after a meeting of the National Security Council that lasted nearly five hours on Wednesday.
"The aim of the declaration of the state of emergency is to be able to take fast and effective steps against this threat against democracy, the rule of law and rights and freedoms of our citizens," Erdogan said.
"There are other countries behind this coup attempt," Erdogan said when announcing the state of emergency, without naming them. He reiterated the government's position that the exiled cleric Fehtullah Gülen, who lives in the US, is behind the coup attempt. "There is a superior structure overseeing Gülen's terrorist organization and they are the ones who organized this coup," he said.
Opposition party CHP called the state of emergency "a threat to democracy and civil rights."
The government had already decided Wednesday to ban academics from traveling, because of suspected connections between academia and unspecified "cells in the military" that were behind the coup, according to an official cited by state broadcaster TRT.
"Europe does not have the right to criticize this decision," Erdogan said of the state of emergency. Turkey is a candidate for future membership in the European Union, but the likelihood of its actual joining, already low before the coup attempt, is even lower now after the government launched a sweeping crackdown on people it deems were behind the uprising.
If Turkey were to reintroduce the death penalty, which it scrapped more than a decade ago in order to meet one of the standards for EU membership, it would spell doom for any possibility of its joining the bloc. Government officials have publicly said that capital punishment might be reintroduced for coup plotters.
Asli Pelit and Reuters contributed to this story.