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Turkey halts activities of 370 groups as purge widens

Suspensions hit human rights and children's organisations as post-coup purge continues
Kurds and Alevis protesters attend a protest rally on November 12, 2016 in Cologne against Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan (AFP)

Turkey has halted the activities of 370 NGOs including human rights and children's organisations over their alleged "terrorist" links, the government said as it widens purges following a failed coup in July.

Deputy Prime Minister Numan Kurtulmus defended the ban on the activities of the NGOs operating across the country, which was announced by the Interior Ministry late on Friday.

"The organisations are not shut down, they are being suspended. There is strong evidence that they are linked to terrorist organisations," Kurtulmus said.

"Turkey has to fight terrorism on so many different fronts. We are trying to clear the state institutions from Gulenists. At the same time we are fighting against Kurdish militants and Islamic State," Kurtulmus told reporters on Saturday.

More than 110,000 people have been sacked or suspended from their jobs and 37,000 arrested since the failed putsch for suspected links to US-based cleric Fethullah Gulen, whom Ankara blames for the plot. He denies the accusations.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan calls the exiled cleric's network the "Fethullahist Terror Organisation" and says the unprecedented crackdown is crucial to rid state institutions of infiltrators seeking to topple the government.

Of the 370 associations affected by Friday's ban, 153 were allegedly linked to the Gulen movement, 190 to the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), 19 to the Marxist-Leninist militant group Revolutionary People's Liberation Party/Front (DHKP-C), and eight to Islamic State, the interior ministry said.

It added that investigations into the groups were continuing and pledged "determination to fight all kinds of structures, groups and institutions with links to terror organizations".

Among the groups affected were bodies representing lawyers, and the Union of Turkish Bar Associations vowed to "take a stand against any unlawful intervention on legal firms".

The scale of the purges has alarmed Turkey's Western allies and foreign investors.

Human rights groups and opposition parties say Erdogan, who traces his political roots to a banned Islamist party, is using the coup as a pretext to muzzle all dissent in the European Union-candidate nation.

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