ANKARA: Turkey's top security body on Tuesday recommended extending the state of emergency imposed since a failed July 2016 coup for a seventh time, despite mounting calls from Ankara's partners to lift it.
The state of emergency was introduced five days after the July 15 coup against President Recep Tayyip Erdogan but critics say it has been used to crack down on his opponents and stifle the media.
The National Security Council (MGK), after a meeting chaired by Erdogan, said in a statement it had agreed to recommend the emergency should be extended for three more months. The latest extension was due to come to an end on Thursday.
The next step is for parliament to approve the extension but this is viewed as a formality.
The attempted coup was blamed by Turkey on a former Erdogan ally, the US-based Muslim preacher Fethullah Gulen and his Hizmet ("Service") movement.
Although Gulen denies the claims, Turkish authorities have used emergency powers to arrest over 50,000 people accused of links to his group as well as Kurdish militants.
Meanwhile, more than 140,000 public sector employees have also been sacked or suspended, including judges, police officers and teachers.
The main opposition Republican People's Party (CHP) on Monday organised rallies across Turkey to protest against the emergency, including a demonstration in Istanbul and Ankara.
The party listed the impact of the state of emergency on freedom of expression and the economy, especially the Turkish lira which has lost over five percent of its value against the US dollar in the past month.
The emergency has come under fierce criticism in the West as well, including by Council of Europe chief Thorbjorn Jagland during his visit to Ankara in February.
In its latest report on Turkey's accession bid to join the European Union, the European Commission said Tuesday that "Turkey should lift the state of emergency without delay."
"The broad scale and collective nature, and the disproportionality of measures... such as widespread dismissals, arrests, and detentions, continue to raise serious concerns," it said.