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Turkey marks one year since attempted coup

One year on, and the history of the failed coup in Turkey is very much being written by the victor.

The anniversary of the bloody but botched attempt to seize power by factions within the military will be led by President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and marked by official events right across the country.

The commemorations are billed as tributes to the ‘epic heroism’ of the Turkish people who fought and, in 250 cases, died to protect the country’s democracy.

According to President Erdogan and his supporters, the attempted putsch was not an attack on him or his government, but an aggressive assault on the Turkish people – and their act of resistance must now be forged into the national memory.

Ravza Kavakci, deputy chair of President Erdogan’s AK Party, said the events would be about more than mourning the dead.

“There was an attack on our democracy, and everybody took to the streets,” she said.

“We have to celebrate this victory of the people, how they overcame the tanks, and how they stood for their democracy.”

Recep Tayyip Erdogan
President Erdogan says the attempted coup was an assault on the Turkish people

But in the 12 months that have passed since the coup, there has been growing criticism of the wide-ranging programme of retribution that has been meted out.

So far, more than 50,000 people have been detained, not just from the military, but also journalists, lawyers, human-rights workers and opposition MPs.

Up to 150,000 state workers, including teachers, civil servants and members of the judiciary have also been suspended or dismissed from their posts.

With around a quarter of all judges and prosecutors sacked, there is now severe backlog in the court system, with thousands of cases yet to be processed. Lawyers say it could take years to work through.

The Turkish Government says those arrested or suspended are followers of exiled US-based cleric Fetullah Gulen, the one-time ally now foe of Mr Erdogan, who is accused of masterminding the coup.

“They penetrated everywhere,” Deputy Prime Minister Numan Kurtulmus told the Reuters news agency.

“We are talking about a structure (going back) more than 40 years, hence it is not possible to cleanse it in one day.”

But critics claim President Erdogan is using the failed putsch as a pretext to undertake a broader purge of all opposition and suppress freedom of expression.

Professor Utku Balaban was suspended by executive order from his lecturing post at the prestigious Faculty of Political Science at Ankara University in February.

The suspects were marched into a purpose-built courtroom one by one

Show trial? Turkey coup suspects marched into court

He and around 40 colleagues were accused of supporting terrorism by signing an academic petition, months before the coup, that criticised Turkish military action impacting Kurdish civilians in the southeast of the country.

“Right after this failed coup they just brought this issue up once again, and by they, I mean the government,” Professor Balaban told Sky News.

“Now we begin to be called terrorists and Mr Gulen’s supporters, and so on and so forth.

“I don’t like being stigmatised as a terrorist, I can easily say that. I don’t believe I am a terrorist or supporting a terrorist organisation.”

The Turkish government has said an independent commission will review complaints made by those who feel they have been unfairly arrested or suspended, but critics question the independence of the government-appointed body.

Last weekend, hundreds of thousands joined an opposition rally, marking the culmination of a ‘march for justice’ from Ankara to Istanbul led by the leader of the main opposition party, the CHP.

The rally, protesting the post-coup crackdown, called for an end to the State of Emergency that was declared shortly after the attempted coup, that has allowed the Turkish government to rule by decree, without having to consult parliament.

Speaking to Sky News inside the parliament building in Ankara, Utku Cakirozer from the opposition CH Party, said: “This place should be the place, but it’s being bypassed by the regime and it has turned to be one man rule in this country.

“So right now there is no use in the parliament and people are looking for justice and looking for democracy and rule of law in the streets.

Protesters outside court shouted 'we want the death penalty' during the procession
Protesters outside court shouted ‘we want the death penalty’ during the procession

“I really hope that this voice can be heard by those who are governing, but looking at the immediate response coming from the government circles. It’s so unfortunate as it seems they see this march as a support for Gullenists or for terror – I mean this could not be more wrong.

On Saturday evening, President Erdogan will lead a ‘National Unity March’ across the Bosphorus Bridge in Istanbul – now renamed ‘Martyrs Bridge’ – which was blockaded by tanks on the evening of 15 June 2016.

At midnight, ‘prayers for the martyrs’ will then be read aloud in mosques throughout the country.

At 2.32am on Sunday, President Erdogan will go on to deliver a statement in the parliament in Ankara, to mark the precise moment one year ago when military jets bombed the building.

Today, much of the parliament complex has been rebuilt, but a blast hole in one of the central atriums, right next to what was the Prime Minister’s office, has been left untouched – an intentional, jagged memorial to the violence of that night.

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