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Turkey marks year since coup defeat

China Daily | Updated: 2017-07-17 07:29

Authorities declare July 15 an annual holiday of 'democracy and unity'

ANKARA - Turkey on Saturday marked one year since the defeat of the failed coup bid with mass nationwide rallies seeking to showcase national unity and a stern warning by President Recep Tayyip Erdogan to "chop off the heads" of traitors.

The authorities declared July 15 an annual national holiday of "democracy and unity", billing the foiling of the putsch as a historic victory of Turkish democracy.

In an intense program aiming to hammer home the anniversary's importance, Erdogan attended a special session of parliament in Ankara, spoke to a mass rally in Istanbul and then flew back to the capital for a rally outside parliament and a special event at the presidential palace in the early hours of the morning.

Speaking to hundreds of thousands by the bridge across the Bosphorus in Istanbul that was a fighting flashpoint, Erdogan warned Turkey could reintroduce capital punishment.

"If it comes to me after parliament, I will sign it," the president told the rally on the Bosphorus Bridge, renamed July 15 Martyrs Bridge in the wake of the coup bid, echoing a refrain he has repeated time and again ever since.

In the crowd, some were seen holding nooses as they chanted "We want death penalty!"

The European Union has threatened to end Turkey's accession bid if it moves to reintroduce the capital punishment that was abolished in 2004.

Saying that terror organizations have been used as pawns in the coup plot like those on the chessboard, Erdogan vowed to "chop off the heads of those traitors" as "without beating the pawns we cannot say checkmate".

In the later speech to thousands outside parliament in Ankara which was bombed by warplanes that night, Erdogan declaimed "our nation showed the whole world what a nation we are on July 15".

The crowds later made their way to the palace where dozens had camped outside for the final official event during which Erdogan inaugurated a monument to the victims which has people hold up the crescent and star symbols of the Turkish flag.

'I would stay out again'

Two hundred and forty nine people, not including the plotters, were killed when a disgruntled faction of the army sent tanks into the streets and warplanes into the sky in a bid to overthrow Erdogan after one-and-a-half decades in power.

But they were thwarted within hours as the authorities regrouped and people poured into the streets in support of Erdogan, who blamed followers of his ally-turned-nemesis, the US-based preacher Fethullah Gulen.

"Did my citizens have weapons? They had their flags like today but they had a more efficient weapon: their faith," Erdogan said in Istanbul.

Murat, an Erdogan supporter at the Ankara rally, said: "If that happened once more, I would stay out again. That night, it was like a war. We take ownership of this country and this people."

In the wake of the failed coup bid, authorities embarked on the biggest purge in Turkey's history, arresting 50,000 people and sacking almost three times as many. Erdogan also shored up his position by winning a referendum on enhancing his powers earlier this year.

In the latest dismissals, another 7,563 police, soldiers and other state employees were fired late on Friday under the state of emergency that has been in place since July 20 last year.

Erdogan said a decision would be made on Monday over whether to recommend extending the emergency by another three months.

Afp - Xinhua

(China Daily 07/17/2017 page12)

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