Turkey death penalty: Erdogan backs return at Istanbul rally – BBC News

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has told a huge rally in Istanbul that he would approve the return of the death penalty if it was backed by parliament and the public.

He was speaking to hundreds of thousands of flag-waving supporters who had gathered in Turkey’s biggest city.

The rally followed last month’s failed coup.

Mr Erdogan also said the state would be cleansed of all supporters of the US-based cleric Fethullah Gulen.

The cleric is blamed by the Turkish government for the attempted uprising. He denies any involvement.

Religious figures and leaders of two of Turkey’s three opposition parties attended the rally. The Kurdish party was not invited.

More than 270 people died in events surrounding the 15 July coup attempt, which triggered a government crackdown.

Thousands of alleged supporters of Mr Gulen have been detained or dismissed from government jobs.

Western nations have been critical of the government’s response to the coup. The European Union – which Turkey has applied to join – refuses to accept capital punishment in member states.

Mr Erdogan told the rally: “It is the Turkish parliament that will decide on the death penalty… I declare it in advance, I will approve the decision made by the parliament.

“They say there is no death penalty in the EU… Well, the US has it; Japan has it; China has it; most of the world has it. So they are allowed to have it. We used to have it until 1984. Sovereignty belongs to the people, so if the people make this decision I am sure the political parties will comply.”

The president railed against Mr Gulen’s movement, hinting of further hardline measures to come.

“July 15 showed our friends that this country isn’t just strong against political, economic and diplomatic attacks, but against military sabotage as well. It showed that it will not fall, it will not be derailed,” Mr Erdogan said.

“Of course we have to uncover all members of this organisation and eradicate them within the framework of the law, but if we content ourselves with just that, then we as a state and a nation will leave weak our defence against similar viruses.”

The “Democracy and Martyrs’ Rally” was the climax of three weeks of nightly demonstrations by Mr Erdogan’s supporters around the country.

Speaking ahead of Mr Erdogan, Prime Minister Binali Yildirim told the rally that Mr Gulen would be brought to Turkey and made to pay the price for the coup attempt.

“Let all of you know, the leader of this terrorist group will come to Turkey and pay for what he did,” Mr Yildirim said.

In a rare address to a public rally, the head of Turkey’s armed forces, Hulusi Akar, said “traitors” would be punished in the harshest way, and thanked civilians for their role in defeating the uprising.

Former ally

The crackdown in Turkey has seen tens of thousands of public sector workers suspended or dismissed, with many having their passports cancelled. There has also been a massive reshuffle of the military.

About 18,000 people have been detained or arrested.

Local branches of the AK Party have been told to begin a purge of suspected Gulenists in their ranks.

Mr Gulen was a close ally of President Erdogan until a bitter split between his movement and the party of the president three years ago.

Turkey has listed Mr Gulen’s movement as a terrorist organisation.

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More than a million people just marched through Turkey's capital to show support for the President – Business Insider

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Business Insider

More than a million people just marched through Turkey’s capital to show support for the President
Business Insider
More than a million Turks gathered in Istanbul on Sunday for a rally called by President Tayyip Erdogan to denounce a failed coup – a show of strength staged in the face of Western criticism of widespread purges and detentions. The “Democracy and
Erdogan, Putin Work to Patch Ties as Economies FlagWall Street Journal
Massive crowd rallies for democracy in TurkeyUSA TODAY
Anti-coup rally may have been Turkey’s biggest everCBS News
PBS NewsHour –The Southern –Fortune –UPI.com
all 208 news articles »

More than a million people just marched through Turkey's capital to show support for the President – Business Insider

[unable to retrieve full-text content]


Business Insider

More than a million people just marched through Turkey’s capital to show support for the President
Business Insider
More than a million Turks gathered in Istanbul on Sunday for a rally called by President Tayyip Erdogan to denounce a failed coup – a show of strength staged in the face of Western criticism of widespread purges and detentions. The “Democracy and
Erdogan, Putin Work to Patch Ties as Economies FlagWall Street Journal
Massive crowd rallies for democracy in TurkeyUSA TODAY
Giant Turkish anti-coup rally packs Istanbul waterfront areaThe Southern
Fortune –PBS NewsHour –BBC News –UPI.com
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Hannity responds to Stelter criticism on Twitter – Politico

160807-Sean-Hannity-GettyImages-513713210.jpg

CNN’s Brian Stelter critiqued Fox News hosts Sean Hannity (above) and Bill O’Reilly for not challenging the GOP nominee’s claim that this election is rigged. | Getty

Several hours after CNN’s “Reliable Sources” host Brian Stelter on Sunday released a video essay critiquing journalists who are “handing Trump the mic,” Sean Hannity and Donald Trump’s campaign fired back.

Stelter critiqued Fox News hosts Hannity and Bill O’Reilly for not challenging the GOP nominee’s claim that the election is rigged. Showing segments from Hannity’s show, Stelter criticized Hannity for being “conspiratorial” about voter fraud in 2012, including Mitt Romney’s failure to receive a single vote from 59 precincts in Philadelphia.

Story Continued Below

“Hey Brian check Philly enquirer after 2012. How many districts not a single Romney vote. Check Cleveland. Do u prep?” Hannity tweeted, referring to the Philadelphia Inquirer.

The CNN host said Hannity was being irresponsible.

“Hannity should have asked more questions. Interviewers, even the ones that support the person they’re interviewing, have an obligation to probe further and push back when a candidate says something dangerous,” Stelter said in his segment. “And this is dangerous. Suggesting an election is going to be stolen, this is Third World dictatorship stuff.”

Trump’s campaign responded on Twitter to a claim Stelter tweeted about Trump being “the first presidential nominee in modern times to come out and tell voters that the election might be stolen.”

“July 2007 #CrookedHillary testified in favor of the “Ballot Integrity Act” to stop hacking,” Trump Rapid Response tweeted.

July 2007 #CrookedHillary testified in favor of the “Ballot Integrity Act” to stop hacking https://t.co/EvM8Wckj43 pic.twitter.com/KMojee2yhB

— Trump Rapid Response (@TrumpRapid) August 7, 2016

The campaign also linked to legislation that was cosponsored by then-presidential candidates Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama and Joe Biden that called for manual audits of election results and improved transparency and independence of testing laboratories. It also established a set of security standards for voting machines.

“Calling us unpatriotic? 59 districts not one Romney vote. So you are voting for the liar HRC. Did DNC hurt Bernie?” Hannity tweeted to Stelter.

“‘Unreliable liberal sources.’ Brian, answer a simple question. Is HRC a liar?” Hannity wrote.

The 2012 report by the Philadelphia Inquirer indicated that in 59 of the 1,687 voting divisions in Philadelphia, Romney did not draw a single vote. Those 59 districts were located in neighborhoods of West Philadelphia and North Philadelphia that were almost exclusively African-American. Overall, President Barack Obama drew 85 percent of the vote in the city.

Hannity’s feud with Stelter followed his battle last week with Bret Stephens, a conservative columnist for The Wall Street Journal who has been fiercely anti-Trump. Stephens called Hannity the “dumbest anchor” on Fox News; Hannity called Stephens a “dumbass.”

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Giant Turkish anti-coup rally packs Istanbul waterfront area – Chicago Tribune

A massive flag-waving crowd, the size of which some Turkish media said had never been seen before, gathered in Istanbul Sunday for a giant rally to mark the end of nightly demonstrations since Turkey’s July 15 abortive coup that left more than 270 people dead.

No official estimate was provided, but Turkish media said millions were attending. The event was so full that large crowds were turned away at the gates, spilling into surrounding streets.

“We will continue on our road in solidarity. We will love each other not for rank or title, but for Allah,” President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said on a 60-meter (200-foot) stage set up for the event. The stage was framed by two platforms and draped with massive national flags and banners depicting Erdogan and Turkey’s founding father Mustafa Kemal Ataturk.

“This nation will never accept servitude,” the president said.

The Yenikapi meeting area by the Marmara Sea waterfront in Istanbul’s European side was transformed into a sea of red and white, the colors of Turkey’s flag. The “Democracy and Martyrs’ Rally” was billed as a cross-party event representing Turkish unity in the wake of the failed coup, in which a group of renegade military officers attempted to seize power with tanks, helicopters and fighter jets.

The government has launched a sweeping crackdown in the coup’s aftermath, targeting followers of US-based Muslim cleric Fethullah Gulen, who it says orchestrated the putsch. Nearly 18,000 people have been detained or arrested, mostly from the military, and tens of thousands of people have been suspended or dismissed from jobs in the judiciary, media, education, health care, military and local government.

“As a state and as a nation we need to analyze the July 15 coup attempt very well. We need to evaluate well not just those who engaged in this treachery, but the powers behind them, the motives that made them take action,” Erdogan said.

The scope of the crackdown has alarmed European countries and rights groups, who have urged restraint. Erdogan has lashed out at such criticism, and complained of a lack of support from the West for his government for surviving the coup.

“July 15 showed our friends that this country isn’t just strong against political, economic and diplomatic attacks, but against military sabotage as well. It showed that it will not fall, it will not be derailed,” he said. “Those wringing their hands on that night hoping for Turkey to fall woke up the next day to realize their work was much harder than they thought.”

Religious leaders and two of Turkey’s three opposition parties attended the rally, sitting next to Erdogan, who arrived on board a helicopter with his wife Emine. The pro-Kurdish People’s Democracy Party, or HDP, wasn’t invited.

“July 15 has opened the door for our reconciliation,” said main opposition Republican People’s Party Chairman Kemal Kilicdaroglu. “There is now a new Turkey after July 15. If we can further this power, this culture of rapprochement, we will all be able to leave our children a great Turkey.”

Erdogan reiterated that he would sign into law the reintroduction of capital punishment if parliament were to pass a bill to that effect. The death penalty was abolished in Turkey in 2004, although the last execution took place in 1984. European Union officials have said a reintroduction of the death penalty would put an end to Turkey’s prospects of joining the bloc.

The event kicked off with a minute of silence for those killed while opposing the coup, followed by the Turkish national anthem and a recitation of prayers.

“I have never been in democracy rallies but I really wanted to come this one. Because I don’t want to lose my country,” said Sevda Bozkurt, a 44-year-old housewife who didn’t manage to get in. “This is one of the biggest rallies. Turkey’s three political parties gathered together, they become friends, they become brothers. Maybe there is hope for Turkey.”

Construction cranes suspended giant Turkish flags beside the meeting area, while flag-draped boats and yachts zipped back and forth along the water.

Following the abortive putsch, the Turkish government has been encouraging nightly anti-coup rallies in all of the country’s 81 provinces as well as in certain foreign locations such as Cologne, Germany.

The event was being simultaneously broadcast on giant screens in all of Turkey’s provinces, and crowds of thousands gathered to watch in the country’s major cities.

“Today is a special day, which is making all of the gatherings held for 15, 24 days, more precious,” said Mustafa Yavuz Aycil, a 44-year-old Istanbul resident attending the rally. “I also had to be here today because as you see all of the crowd is showing its reaction to the coup.”

Nearly 15,000 police were providing security at the event. Anti-aircraft batteries were also set up at the event grounds, while two helicopters circled overhead.

Thousands of buses and more than 200 boats were commissioned to bring attendees to the area, where they passed through one of 165 metal detectors before being given hats and flags. Those wounded during the attempted coup and the families of those who died were given special passes for a seated area.

An Ottoman marching band entertained the crowd before the official start of the event, with 240 members representing the number of those authorities say gave their lives fighting off the coup.

Associated Press

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Erdogan, Putin Work to Patch Ties as Economies Flag – Wall Street Journal

Russian President Vladimir Putin, right, meeting Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan at the Kremlin in Moscow on Sept. 23, 2015.
ENLARGE

Russian President Vladimir Putin, right, meeting Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan at the Kremlin in Moscow on Sept. 23, 2015.


Photo:

RIA NOVOSTI/Press Pool

By

Thomas Grove

Aug. 7, 2016 2:44 p.m. ET

MOSCOW—In his first trip abroad since a failed coup last month, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan plans to meet with President Vladimir Putin in Russia on Tuesday to cement a sharp turnaround in relations.

Mr. Erdogan’s visit comes amid tension with the U.S. and the European Union over his government’s mass arrests of suspected coup plotters, and brings together two leaders whose ties with the West are frayed.

The two are also struggling with flagging economies and the trip is expected to focus as much on business as geopolitics, according to Turkish officials.

Bilateral relations became acrimonious after Turkey shot down a Russian warplane along the Turkish-Syrian border last November, killing two pilots. Until little more than a month ago, Mr. Putin was accusing the Turkish president of financing terrorism; Turkey was accusing Russia of bombing hospitals in Syria.

But Mr. Erdogan at the end of June sent a letter expressing regret to the Kremlin over the shootdown, which led to a phone call between the two leaders. Mr. Putin offered public condolences after the June 28 terrorist attack at Istanbul’s Atatürk Airport. Russia has also dispatched food-hygiene and air-safety specialists to Turkey, signaling it might be willing to roll back economic sanctions it had imposed on food imports, tourism and construction.

The move toward rapprochement predated the coup attempt, and coincided with a restoration of diplomatic ties with Israel as Turkey sought to end its isolation in the region.

But the trip also allows Ankara to send a message to the U.S. and European Union about what it views as the West’s lack of empathy over the coup attempt, said Sinan Ulgen, the chairman of Istanbul-based foreign-policy think tank Edam.

“Turkey could indeed go in a more anti-West direction by seeking now to accelerate the normalization and eventual rapprochement with Russia,” Mr. Ulgen said. “So there is a real signal Erdogan is trying to give beyond the concrete talks on trade, energy and Syria.”

Russian and Turkish officials said the meeting would focus on bolstering once-flourishing economic links and discussing the conflict in Syria, where the two are backing opposing sides.

Kremlin foreign-policy adviser Yury Ushakov said Friday that the issue of reparations from Turkey for the downing of the Russian warplane “will probably also be discussed,” according to the state news agency TASS.

The restrictions on tour operators have hit a key driver of Turkey’s economy, with a 40% drop in tourists in June. About four million Russians usually visit Turkey each year, making them the second-largest group after Germans.

Moscow, however, may not move as quickly to lift them as Ankara hopes.

“It is likely that some sanctions will remain in place to maintain leverage on Ankara in the future,” said Alexander Vasiliev, an expert on Russian-Turkish ties at Moscow’s Institute for Oriental Studies.

Discussions on Syria are likely to be tough, analysts say, although both sides in the past managed to prevent disputes from damaging economic ties.

Russia intervened militarily in Syria last year to buttress the forces of President Bashar al-Assad. Nearly a year later, Russian air support has been crucial in some of the most strategic battles of the war, including the regime’s current offensive against the rebel-held part of Aleppo.

Turkey, which is supporting some opposition groups in Syria, has given no indication it is ready to change its position that Mr. Assad must leave power.

“It is impossible to talk of a political transition in Syria as long as Bashar al-Assad remains in power,” Turkey’s presidential spokesman Ibrahim Kalin said in an interview with Russian state news agency TASS on Thursday. “Assad’s stay in power means a continuation of clashes in Syria.”

Warmer ties could also revive talks on a natural gas pipeline to Turkey that could boost Ankara’s long-held ambition of becoming a hub for gas heading to Europe. Mr. Putin announced plans for the pipeline, known as Turkish Stream, during a trip to the country in December 2014.

The pipeline was intended to meet growing demand in Turkey and replace a canceled project to carry gas into the EU via the Black Sea, which had been thwarted by EU antitrust regulations.

Russia has sought to establish routes that would avoid Ukraine, where disputes between Moscow and Kiev have cut gas flows twice in the last decade.

Poland, among other countries, has objected to Moscow’s bid to expand a pipeline known as Nord Stream under the Baltic Sea to Germany, which could boost Turkish Stream’s chances.

“We need to ease our reliance on Ukrainian gas pipelines and since Poland is not very happy over the construction of a pipeline through the Baltic Sea, the southern route is gaining crucial importance,” said Ruslan Pukhov of defense and geopolitical think tank CAST, which is researching Turkish-Russian relations.

—Margaret Coker contributed to this article.

Write to Thomas Grove at thomas.grove@wsj.com

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IOC choked, but Paralympics just says no to Russia – USA TODAY

USA Today Sports’ Martin Rogers tells you the 5 things to watch for during the Olympics on Sunday, Aug. 7. USA TODAY Sports

RIO DE JANEIRO – It was the same report, the same, crystal-clear, damning evidence. The same black-and-white, undeniable proof that Russia’s government fronted a despicable doping cartel aimed at cheating its way to sporting success.

But this time, the Russians did not slip off the hook.

USA TODAY

French gymnast Samir Ait Said looks ahead to 2020 after horrific injury

That the International Paralympic Committee made the move on Sunday to expel Russia from its Games for disabled athletes says as many good things about that organization as it does negatives about the International Olympic Committee.

The IOC choked last month when it was poised with blade in hand to strike a blow for clean sport, clean government, fair competition, honest effort, and pretty much every other positive thing one can associate with the Olympics.

Bosses of the Paralympic bosses didn’t waste the chance, not in the name of making a statement for the sake of it, but because it was the right thing to do.

In some ways the Paralympic Games represent the best of what sports has to offer, the simple yet beautiful ideal of triumph over struggle, and not just against an opponent or a clock.In Sochi in 2014, the Winter Paralympics was poisoned by the Russian program of pumping its athletes with performances enhancers, then using subterfuge to tamper with the results to mask their deeds.

“The Russia state-run program of cheating questioned the integrity and credibility of sport as we know it,” IPC president Sir Philip Craven said. “The system in Russia is broken, corrupted and entirely compromised. Their ‘medals over morals’ mentality disgusts me.”

Craven is a sports politician, which pretty much by design means he is not perfect. Some felt he schmoozed too closely with Russian leader Vladimir Putin around the time of Sochi, which he publicly proclaimed as the best Paralympics ever.

But back then he didn’t know. None of us did, and even those who suspected something fishy when Russia claimed an extraordinary tally of 80 medals –  including 30 golds – couldn’t have imagined the extent of it.

That was all laid out in the McLaren report, a paper so comprehensive that the IPC vote was unanimous and swift.

So what was the IOC missing when it resisted the chance to do the same a couple of weeks earlier?

IOC chief Thomas Bach said banishing the Russian delegation would have been the “nuclear” option and left the choice up to the individual sports. Predictably, only a handful took the tough route, meaning there will be 271 Russian athletes competing at the Olympics.

The IOC is a large and unwieldy organization that can barely breathe for red tape and political entangling, but that is not an excuse for its reticence.

It’s inaction ensured that the Russia conundrum will be one of the things these Games are remembered for, even more so after the Paralympics leaders showed how it should have been done.

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Russian Paralympic athletes banned from competing in Rio – CNN

Story highlights

  • Russia’s sports minister reportedly says Moscow will appeal the ban
  • Committee president: Russia’s “medals-over-morals mentality disgusts me”
During his announcement in Rio de Janeiro, International Paralympic Committee President Philip Craven put the blame squarely on Russia’s government.
Russia has “catastrophically failed its para athletes,” Craven said. “Their medals-over-morals mentality disgusts me.”
Russian Sports Minister Vitaly Mutko told Russia’s news agency Tass he will appeal the decision and submit a claim to the Court of Arbitration for Sports in Lausanne, Switzerland.
“We will fight for our Paralympians,” he told Tass.
Joining Craven at the news conference was Todd Nicholson, the IPC athletes council chairperson, who said he could “only imagine the disappointment Russian athletes must feel at this decision.”
But Nicholson assured athletes that the decision was made in their best interest “to ensure a fair and level playing field for all athletes.”
The Paralympic Games start September 7 in Rio.
The committee had asked for more information from Richard McLaren, who triggered the controversy in July by issuing a report for the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) alleging a wide-scale pattern of doping by Russian athletes, which had been covered up for years by the country’s security services.
On Sunday, WADA came out in support of the IPC’s decision, saying it’s “in the interest of clean athletes and the clean sport movement.”
The international committee said it will begin working with the international sporting federations to figure out how the 267 slots that had been allotted to Russian Paralympic athletes across 18 sports will be redistributed to other nations.

Banning Russia’s Olympic athletes

As far as the Olympic Games in Rio, 118 competitors of the 389-strong Russian team have been banned, due to the doping scandal.
Critics had called for Russia’s entire Olympics team to be banned, to send a message that systematic cheating is unacceptable. But International Olympic Committee President Thomas Bach said doing so would be wrong. “This is about doing justice to clean athletes all over the world. In this way we protect these clean athletes,” Bach said.

CNN’s Matthew Chance and Sebastian Shukla in St. Petersburg, Russia, and Chris Eldergill and Nick Paton Walsh in Rio de Janeiro contributed to this report.

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Giant Turkish anti-coup rally packs Istanbul waterfront area – STLtoday.com

ISTANBUL (AP) — A giant flag-waving crowd, the size of which some Turkish media said had never been seen before, gathered in Istanbul Sunday for a rally to mark the end of nightly demonstrations since Turkey’s July 15 abortive coup that left more than 270 people dead.

No official estimate was provided, but Turkish media said millions were at the rally. The event was so full that many were turned away at the gates.

The Yenikapi meeting area by the Marmara Sea waterfront in Istanbul’s European side was transformed into a sea of red and white, the colors of Turkey’s flag. The “Democracy and Martyrs’ Rally” was billed as a cross-party event representing Turkish unity in the wake of the failed coup, in which a group of renegade military officers attempted to seize power with tanks, helicopters and fighter jets.

Religious leaders and two of Turkey’s three opposition parties were attending, sitting next to President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who arrived on board a helicopter with his wife Emine. The pro-Kurdish People’s Democracy Party, or HDP, wasn’t invited.

“July 15 has opened the door for our reconciliation,” said main opposition Republican People’s Party Chairman Kemal Kilicdaroglu said. “There is now a new Turkey after July 15. If we can further this power, this culture of rapprochement, we will all be able to leave our children a great Turkey.”

The event kicked off with a minute of silence for those killed while opposing the coup, followed by the Turkish national anthem and a recitation of prayers ahead of speeches by the political party leaders. Erdogan was also to address the rally.

A 60-meter (200-foot) stage was set up for the event, framed by two platforms and draped with massive national flags and banners depicting Erdogan and Turkey’s founding father Mustafa Kemal Ataturk. A roll call of those who died opposing the coup was read out as the crowd gathered.

“I have never been in democracy rallies but I really wanted to come this one. Because I don’t want to lose my country,” said Sevda Bozkurt, a 44-year-old housewife who didn’t manage to get in to the rally area. “This is one of the biggest rallies. Turkey’s three political parties gathered together, they become friends, they become brothers. Maybe there is hope for Turkey.”

Construction cranes suspended giant Turkish flags beside the meeting area, while flag-draped boats and yachts zipped back and forth along the water.

Following the abortive putsch, the Turkish government has been encouraging nightly anti-coup rallies in all of the country’s 81 provinces as well as in certain foreign locations such as Cologne, Germany.

The event was being simultaneously broadcast on giant screens in all of Turkey’s provinces, and crowds of thousands gathered to watch in the country’s major cities.

“Today is a special day, which is making all of the gatherings held for 15, 24 days, more precious,” said Mustafa Yavuz Aycil, a 44-year-old Istanbul resident attending the rally. “I also had to be here today because as you see all of the crowd is showing its reaction to the coup.”

Nearly 15,000 police were providing security at the event. Anti-aircraft batteries were also set up at the event grounds, while two helicopters circled overhead.

Thousands of buses and more than 200 boats were commissioned to bring attendees to the area, where they passed through one of 165 metal detectors before being given hats and flags. Those wounded during the attempted coup and the families of those who died were given special passes for a seated area.

Erdogan urged people to bring only the Turkish flag instead of party banners.

“There we will stand together as a single nation, a single flag, a single motherland, a single state, a single spirit,” he said Saturday.

An Ottoman marching band entertained the crowd before the official start of the event, with 240 members representing the number of those authorities say gave their lives fighting off the coup.

Turkish media also said a giant screen was to be set up in Pennsylvania, the U.S. state that is home to Islamic cleric Fethullah Gulen, who moved there in self-imposed exile in the late 1990s. The Turkish government says Gulen is the mastermind behind the failed coup and is seeking his extradition. The cleric denies any involvement.

The government has launched a sweeping crackdown in the coup’s aftermath, targeting followers of Gulen’s movement. Nearly 18,000 people have been detained or arrested, mostly from the military, and tens of thousands of people have been suspended or dismissed from jobs in the judiciary, media, education, health care, military and local government.

The scope of the crackdown has alarmed European countries and rights groups, who have urged restraint. Erdogan has lashed out at such criticism, and complained of a lack of support from the West for his government for surviving the coup.

____

Neyran Elden and Bram Janssen in Istanbul contributed to this report.

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Giant Turkish anti-coup rally packs Istanbul waterfront area – Washington Post

By Cinar Kiper and Elena Becatoros | AP,

ISTANBUL — A giant flag-waving crowd, the size of which some Turkish media said had never been seen before, gathered in Istanbul Sunday for a rally to mark the end of nightly demonstrations since Turkey’s July 15 abortive coup that left more than 270 people dead.

No official estimate was provided, but Turkish media said millions were at the rally. The event was so full that many were turned away at the gates.

The Yenikapi meeting area by the Marmara Sea waterfront in Istanbul’s European side was transformed into a sea of red and white, the colors of Turkey’s flag. The “Democracy and Martyrs’ Rally” was billed as a cross-party event representing Turkish unity in the wake of the failed coup, in which a group of renegade military officers attempted to seize power with tanks, helicopters and fighter jets.

Religious leaders and two of Turkey’s three opposition parties were attending, sitting next to President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who arrived on board a helicopter with his wife Emine. The pro-Kurdish People’s Democracy Party, or HDP, wasn’t invited.

“July 15 has opened the door for our reconciliation,” said main opposition Republican People’s Party Chairman Kemal Kilicdaroglu said. “There is now a new Turkey after July 15. If we can further this power, this culture of rapprochement, we will all be able to leave our children a great Turkey.”

The event kicked off with a minute of silence for those killed while opposing the coup, followed by the Turkish national anthem and a recitation of prayers ahead of speeches by the political party leaders. Erdogan was also to address the rally.

A 60-meter (200-foot) stage was set up for the event, framed by two platforms and draped with massive national flags and banners depicting Erdogan and Turkey’s founding father Mustafa Kemal Ataturk. A roll call of those who died opposing the coup was read out as the crowd gathered.

“I have never been in democracy rallies but I really wanted to come this one. Because I don’t want to lose my country,” said Sevda Bozkurt, a 44-year-old housewife who didn’t manage to get in to the rally area. “This is one of the biggest rallies. Turkey’s three political parties gathered together, they become friends, they become brothers. Maybe there is hope for Turkey.”

Construction cranes suspended giant Turkish flags beside the meeting area, while flag-draped boats and yachts zipped back and forth along the water.

Following the abortive putsch, the Turkish government has been encouraging nightly anti-coup rallies in all of the country’s 81 provinces as well as in certain foreign locations such as Cologne, Germany.

The event was being simultaneously broadcast on giant screens in all of Turkey’s provinces, and crowds of thousands gathered to watch in the country’s major cities.

“Today is a special day, which is making all of the gatherings held for 15, 24 days, more precious,” said Mustafa Yavuz Aycil, a 44-year-old Istanbul resident attending the rally. “I also had to be here today because as you see all of the crowd is showing its reaction to the coup.”

Nearly 15,000 police were providing security at the event. Anti-aircraft batteries were also set up at the event grounds, while two helicopters circled overhead.

Thousands of buses and more than 200 boats were commissioned to bring attendees to the area, where they passed through one of 165 metal detectors before being given hats and flags. Those wounded during the attempted coup and the families of those who died were given special passes for a seated area.

Erdogan urged people to bring only the Turkish flag instead of party banners.

“There we will stand together as a single nation, a single flag, a single motherland, a single state, a single spirit,” he said Saturday.

An Ottoman marching band entertained the crowd before the official start of the event, with 240 members representing the number of those authorities say gave their lives fighting off the coup.

Turkish media also said a giant screen was to be set up in Pennsylvania, the U.S. state that is home to Islamic cleric Fethullah Gulen, who moved there in self-imposed exile in the late 1990s. The Turkish government says Gulen is the mastermind behind the failed coup and is seeking his extradition. The cleric denies any involvement.

The government has launched a sweeping crackdown in the coup’s aftermath, targeting followers of Gulen’s movement. Nearly 18,000 people have been detained or arrested, mostly from the military, and tens of thousands of people have been suspended or dismissed from jobs in the judiciary, media, education, health care, military and local government.

The scope of the crackdown has alarmed European countries and rights groups, who have urged restraint. Erdogan has lashed out at such criticism, and complained of a lack of support from the West for his government for surviving the coup.

____

Neyran Elden and Bram Janssen in Istanbul contributed to this report.

Copyright 2016 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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