Turkey's Erdogan announces three-month state of emergency

Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan speaks during a news conference following the National Security Council and cabinet meetings at the Presidential Palace in Ankara, Turkey, July 20, 2016. REUTERS/Umit Bektas

ISTANBUL (Reuters) - Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan on Wednesday announced a three-month state of emergency, saying this would enable the authorities to take swift and effective action against those responsible for last weekend’s failed military coup.

Erdogan, who has launched mass purges of state institutions since the July 15 coup attempt by a faction within the military, said the move was in line with Turkey’s constitution and did not violate the rule of law or basic freedoms of Turkish citizens.

“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.

The president accuses a U.S.-based Muslim cleric, Fethullah Gulen, of being behind the coup. Gulen, who has many followers in Turkey and abroad, denies the charge.

Erdogan made his announcement in a live television broadcast late on Wednesday evening in front of assembled government ministers after a meeting of the National Security Council that lasted nearly five hours.

The state of emergency, which comes into force after it is published in Turkey’s official gazette, 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.

Erdogan said regional governors would receive increased powers under the state of emergency, adding that the armed forces would work in line with government orders.

“Europe does not have the right to criticize this decision,” Erdogan added, apparently anticipating expressions of concern from the European Union, which has become increasingly critical of Turkey’s rights record and has urged restraint as Ankara purges its state institutions since the abortive coup.

Turkey is an EU candidate country, though it is not expected to join for many years if ever.

Writing by Gareth Jones; Editing by James Dalgleish and Tom Brown