BRUSSELS Turkey's purge of state personnel since an attempted coup in July breaks international law and Turkey's constitution, a panel of law experts at the Council of Europe said on Friday.
The opinion, which has no legal effect, is some of the clearest official criticism of Turkey's response to the July 15 putsch, and comes from experts at a rights body of which Ankara is a member.
"Measures taken by the government went beyond what is permitted by the Turkish Constitution and by international law," said the experts, known as the Venice Commission, after evaluating the legal basis for the imprisonment of some 36,000 people pending trial and the suspension or dismissal of more than 100,000 state personnel.
The full legal opinion from the Council of Europe, Europe's leading human rights organisatio with 47 member states, will be published on Monday.
The experts said the "method of purging the state apparatus creates a strong appearance of arbitrariness" and said that even if Turkey had good reasons to call a state of emergency, the decision to dismiss, rather than to suspend, staff was wrong.
Ankara says the scale of its crackdown is justified by the gravity of events on July 15, when rogue soldiers commandeered tanks, fighter jets and helicopters, bombing parliament and government buildings in their attempt to seize power.
Turkey's purge has deeply strained its relations with the European Union and also reached the NATO military alliance and its diplomats posted abroad. NATO's top commander this week said he had no suspicion that Turkish military officers under his command were planning a coup.
Turkey blames Fethullah Gulen, the U.S.-based Muslim cleric, for the coup in which 240 people died. The Council of Europe's Venice Commission said it was aware of such allegations and of the seriousness of the coup.
But the constitutional experts said collective dismissals were not supported by evidence on a case-by-case basis. They raised questions about the speed at which the dismissal lists were drawn up.
"Those dismissals apparently are not subject to judicial review by the ordinary courts, or, at least, the accessibility of the judicial review remains a matter of controversy," the experts said.
It also said the Turkish government made its accusations to group's such as Gulen's too vague. "The concept of connections has been too loosely defined," the experts said.
Separately on Friday, a grouping of European judges decided to suspend Turkey from its organisation, saying the country's judicial was no longer independent from the government.
In a statement, the European Network of Councils for the Judiciary (ENCJ) said that after a meeting in The Hague on Thursday, it could no longer represent or support Turkish judges and prosecutors in its network.
(Reporting by Robin Emmott; Editing by Alissa de Carbonnel)