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Thursday 18 January 2018

Turkey marks anniversary of failed coup against Erdogan rule

A wall of photographs of those who died fighting against the coup attempt last year (AP)
A wall of photographs of those who died fighting against the coup attempt last year (AP)
Workers put the finishing touches to the memorial to honour the victims of the coup attempt (AP)

Turkey is commemorating the first anniversary of the quashed military coup that sought to overthrow President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

Authorities are staging a series of events honouring 250 people who were killed on July 15 last year while trying to stop the insurrection.

The coup attempt was the greatest challenge to the rule of Mr Erdogan, who has been in power since 2003, first as prime minister and later as president.

After crushing the attempted takeover, he went on to win a referendum in April that will considerably extend the powers of his office - a move that has raised fears among opponents who say he has become increasingly authoritarian.

The rebellion unfolded on a Friday evening when a group of military officers commandeered warplanes, helicopters and tanks to attack key government buildings in the capital Ankara, including parliament and the presidential palace complex.

They held Istanbul's main bridge and square, attacked some government buildings and tried to take over television stations. They also tried to capture or kill the president, who was on holiday at a Mediterranean resort at the time.

Heeding a call by Mr Erdogan broadcast on CNN-Turk through a video app, thousands of people took to the streets to stop the tanks and soldiers.

Within hours police and officers loyal to the government put down the coup, which did not have support in the military's top echelons.

More than 2,000 people were injured in the streets, in addition to the 250 people who died and now are hailed as "martyrs" of the coup.

The dead include 53 special operations police who were killed in an attack on their headquarters in Ankara. About 30 plotters are also believed to have died during their failed attempt.

Mr Erdogan is set to unveil a large monument for the "martyrs" opposite his palace in Ankara and another near Istanbul's former Bosporus Bridge, which has been renamed as the July 15 Martyrs Bridge.

He also is scheduled to deliver a speech in parliament at 2.32am on Sunday - the moment the assembly was attacked a year ago.

The government has blamed the coup on the influential movement led by US-based Muslim cleric Fethullah Gulen, a former Erdogan ally who ran a network of schools, dormitories, media outlets and universities.

Mr Gulen's followers are accused of infiltrating state institutions over decades to carry out the insurgency.

Mr Erdogan once described the coup as a "gift from God" that had allowed the government to purge the military and public institutions of the Gulenists who once were allied with his Islamic-rooted Justice and Development Party.

A prolonged state of emergency that has been in place since the coup attempt allows the government to rule through decrees and without the initial approval of legislators.

Over the last year, more than 50,000 people have been arrested for alleged involvement in the insurgency and more than 100,000 others have been fired from civil service jobs.


Press Association

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