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Turkey coup: Crowds rally to democracy calls after coup attempt

Turkish crowd

Massive crowds have gathered in Istanbul and other cities after calls by Turkish authorities to defend democracy following the failed military coup.

Less than 24 hours earlier thousands had turned out to help quash the plot.

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan wants the extradition of US-based cleric Fethullah Gulen over the plot. Mr Gulen denies any involvement.

Nearly 3,000 soldiers have been detained and some 2,700 judges sacked as the government re-asserts power.

Generals are reported to be among those detained.

Prime Minister Binali Yildirim called the coup attempt a “black stain on Turkish democracy”.

Official figures put the number of civilians and police killed at 161, while 104 soldiers involved in the coup also died. The number of injured was 1,440.

US Secretary of State John Kerry urged the Turkish authorities to respect the rule of law during their investigations into the coup attempt.

Mr Kerry also warned Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu that public suggestions the US had a role in the plot were “utterly false” and harmful to relations.

The US also says that Turkey must provide evidence before any extradition of Fethullah Gulen could be considered.

The attempted coup happened because Turkey is deeply divided over President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s project to transform the country and because of the contagion of violence from the war in Syria.

President Erdogan and his AK Party have become experts at winning elections, but there have always been doubts about his long-term commitment to democracy. He is a political Islamist who has rejected modern Turkey’s secular heritage. Mr Erdogan has become increasingly authoritarian and is trying to turn himself into a strong executive president.

From the beginning Mr Erdogan’s government has been deeply involved in the war in Syria, backing Islamist opposition to President Assad. But violence has spread across the border, helping to reignite the fight with the Kurdish PKK, and making Turkey a target for the jihadists who call themselves Islamic State.

That has caused a lot of disquiet. Turkey has faced increasing turmoil and the attempt to overthrow President Erdogan will not be the last of it.

The issue could affect US-led operations against the Islamic State group in Iraq and Syria. Turkey closed its Incirlik air base – where US war planes are based – as the coup unfolded.

The US has advised its citizens against any travel to Turkey. “Foreign and US tourists have been explicitly targeted by international and indigenous terrorist organisations,” warned a statement from the US state department.

Events began on Friday evening as tanks took up positions on two of the bridges over the Bosphorus Strait in Istanbul, blocking traffic. Troops were seen on the streets and low-flying military jets were filmed over Ankara.

An army faction then issued a statement that a “peace council” was running Turkey and had launched the coup “to ensure and restore constitutional order, democracy, human rights and freedoms”.

During the violence, the Turkish parliament and presidential buildings in Ankara were attacked.

There were reports of fierce clashes in Taksim Square, where gunfire and explosions were heard. One of the helicopters being flown by rebels was reportedly shot down by government troops in Ankara.

President Erdogan, then in the south-west resort of Marmaris, made a televised address via his mobile phone, urging people to take to the streets to oppose the uprising.

After flying to Istanbul, Mr Erdogan said: “What is being perpetrated is a treason and a rebellion. They will pay a heavy price.”

Eight alleged coup-plotters flew to Greece and requested political asylum. Turkey’s Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said they would be extradited, but Greece has not yet confirmed the move.

Map of Ankara and Istanbul


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Sydney Chesterfield

Poet, Playwright, Philosopher, Humanitarian, mad lover of children and unflinching fighter for equality on all grounds viz. Women's rights, child rights, sine die.

Twitter: @syd_field