A Turkish official says the United States should help prove an Ankara government narrative that a US-based Turkish dissident was to blame for a failed coup d’état in Turkey last year, as Ankara marks the anniversary of the abortive putsch.
The coup attempt, carried out on July 15 last year, saw rogue soldiers driving tanks on the streets and flying helicopters overhead and claiming that President Recep Tayyip Erdogan was no more in charge of the country. The attempt, however, was suppressed over the course of two days. Some 249 people, not including the rogue soldiers, were killed during the coup attempt.
The government has named July 15 a national holiday.
President Erdogan has accused his former-ally-turned-foe Fetullah Gulen (seen below), who resides in Pennsylvania in self-exile, of having spearheaded the coup. Gulen, a cleric, denies the accusation.
Erdogan has been riding a wave of patriotism since the coup, and has been pressing hard for Gulen’s extradition. The US, however, has not accepted Turkish requests for Gulen’s extradition so far.
Speaking to Reuters on Friday, Turkey’s ambassador to the US once again repeated Ankara’s demand from Washington to extradite Gulen.
Ambassador Serdar Kilic said US authorities had to examine Gulen’s communications for evidence showing he masterminded the putsch.
“They (the Americans) should help us in this regard. We don’t have national intelligence authority in the United States,” he said.
Kilic cited “confessions” by some alleged coup plotters and their purported visits with Gulen at his US compound in the lead-up to the putsch as proof that the cleric had been behind the coup.
Meanwhile, Alp Aslandogan, Gulen’s media adviser, said the cleric did not own a cell phone, the land line at his compound was used by staff members, and that he did not use email. He said confessions of alleged coup plotters implicating Gulen were dubious because of accusations that their testimonies had been “obtained under duress and sometimes torture.”
Erdogan said in May he would pursue “to the end” Gulen’s extradition and has waged a post-coup crackdown on the cleric’s followers.
The authorities have so far arrested 50,000 people and sacked over 100,000 more as part of a post-coup crackdown.
The government has set up giant posters in Istanbul depicting the key events of the coup night, including the surrender of the putschists, and bearing the slogan “The epic of July 15.”
Patriotic placards also hang between the minarets of some of the city’s greatest Ottoman mosques.
A special session of the parliament will start commemorations marking the first anniversary of defeating the coup at 1000 GMT.
At midnight local time (2100 GMT) on Saturday, people across Turkey will take part in “democracy watches,” rallies commemorating people’s confrontation with the putschists.
Erdogan will fly to Istanbul to take part in a people’s march on the bridge across the Bosphorus, where bloody fighting occurred during the botched coup. He will return to Ankara and give a speech at the parliament at 2300 GMT to mark the legislature was bombed during the coup.
The celebrations will also witness the unveiling of a monument in commemoration of those killed outside his palace in the capital.