ISTANBUL (AP) — Turkey is marking the fourth anniversary of the July 15 failed coup attempt against the government, with ceremonies and events remembering its victims.
President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Wednesday, accompanied by civilian “veterans” who fought against the coup, laid a wreath at a memorial in the presidential complex in Ankara and prayed. Erdogan was kicking off a series of events to commemorate the crushing of the coup, including one at parliament. Attendees were wearing masks as the event took place amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
On July 15, 2016, factions within the military used tanks, warplanes and helicopters to try to overthrow Erdogan’s government. A total of 251 people were killed and around 2,200 others were wounded as the coup plotters fired on people or bombed parliament and other government buildings. Around 35 alleged coup plotters were also killed.
Turkey has blamed U.S.-based Muslim cleric Fethullah Gulen, a former Erdogan ally, for the coup attempt. Gulen rejects the accusation. His network was designated a terrorist group and dubbed Fethullahist Terror Organization or FETO.
“We will continue our resolute fight inside our country and abroad until the last FETO member is brought to justice,” Erdogan said at a luncheon for the relatives of “martyrs” and the wounded.
The government declared a state of emergency after the coup attempt to crackdown on Gulen’s network.
Under emergency powers that were in place for two years, tens of thousands of people were arrested for alleged links to the coup and to Gulen and the trials continue. More than 130,000 people were fired from public service through emergency decrees, among them teachers and police officers.
Critics say the arrests and dismissals went too far, targeting all opposition to the government under Turkey’s wide terror laws.
Erdogan said more than 100 people with purported links to the cleric were caught abroad and brought back to Turkey to stand trial. Schools, cultural centers and associations set up across the world by Gulen’s transnational network were shuttered or transformed to institutions tied to the Turkish government.
The U.S. hasn’t extradited the 79-year-old cleric despite repeated requests.