ISTANBUL: President Recep Tayyip Erdogan vowed to “rip the heads off” of terror groups and coup-plotters who tried to end his more than decade-long rule on Saturday, as Turkey marked the anniversary of the country’s crushed military coup with a series of rallies and other commemorative events, reports AP.
Accompanied by his family and the families of the victims of the coup, Erdogan joined a massive, flag-waving crowd near the iconic July 15 Martyrs’ Bridge in Istanbul to remember 250 people who died on July 15, 2016 resisting the coup.
He inaugurated a hollow, globe-shaped monument featuring the names of the victims near the foot of the bridge, before flying to Ankara to attend a special session in parliament at the exact moment it was bombed a year ago.
He also opened a second memorial opposite the grounds of his palace in Ankara.
“Exactly a year ago today, around this hour, a treacherous attempt took place,” Erdogan told tens of thousands of people in Istanbul who converged at the bridge following a “national unity march.”
“The July 15 coup attempt is not the first attack against our country, and it won’t be the last,” he said, referring to a series of terror attacks that also hit the country. “For that reason, we’ll first rip the heads off of these traitors.”
The bridge was the scene of clashes between civilians and soldiers in tanks. At least 30 people died there and more than 2,000 were injured across Turkey in the struggle. Thirty-five coup plotters were also killed. Photographs of the 250 “martyrs” were displayed on monitors and their names announced. Erdogan paid tribute to the victims saying they fought with their “bare hands” and “their faith” against the heavily armed coup-plotters.
Erdogan also told the crowd that he wants hundreds of people who are on trial for plotting last year’s failed coup to appear in court wearing the same type of outfit - similar to those that were worn by detainees at Guantanamo Bay. He also reiterated that he would approve a bill reinstating the death penalty if parliament proposed it.
Turkish soldiers attempted to overthrow the government and the president using tanks, warplanes and helicopters on July 15, 2016. The coup plotters declared their seizure of power on the state broadcaster, bombed the country’s parliament and other key locations, and raided an Aegean resort where Erdogan had been on vacation. But Erdogan had already left and the coup attempt was put down by civilians and security forces.
Turkey blames US-based cleric Fethullah Gulen for orchestrating the coup and infiltrating state institutions. Gulen denies the allegations.