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Huge Istanbul rally marks failed 2016 coup

Thousands carry Turkish flags while others chant 'we are soldiers of Tayyip [Erdogan]' to mark July 2016 attack.

people have gathered at a massive rally in Istanbul

Tens of thousands of people have gathered at a massive rally in Istanbul, marking one year since the defeat of the coup aimed at ousting President Recep Tayyip Erdogan from power.

Erdogan joined the crowd as they gathered on Saturday at the Bosphorus Bridge, now known as the July 15 Martyr's Bridge.

"My dear citizens, I want to salute you with honour, love and heartfelt feelings," Erdogan said. "Like the day of the coup, our nation stood up with their faith against violence."

Erdogan earlier arrived from the capital Ankara on his official plane accompanied by an F-16 fighter jet, an AFP correspondent reported.

The authorities have declared July 15 an annual national holiday of "democracy and unity", billing the foiling of the putsch as a historic victory of Turkish democracy.

"It's one year since the darkest night was turned into an epic," Prime Minister Binali Yildirim told a special session of parliament that kicked off a day of celebrations set to last until dawn.

He said the night of July 15 was a "second War of Independence" after the war that led to the creation of the modern Turkish state in the ruins of the Ottoman Empire in 1923.

About 249 people, not including the plotters, were killed when a disgruntled faction of the army sent tanks into the streets and war planes into the sky in a bid to overthrow Erdogan.

But they were thwarted within hours as the authorities regrouped and people poured into the streets in support of Erdogan, who blamed followers of his ally-turned-nemesis, the US-based preacher Fethullah Gulen.

Tens of thousands carried the Turkish flag while others brandished pictures of the "martyrs" who died defeating the coup bid as a sea of people stretched from the bridge, which has since been renamed Bridge of the Martyrs of July 15.

People chanted "we are soldiers of Tayyip (Erdogan)" and called for the reinstatement of the death penalty for the coup plotters, with some even brandishing nooses.

At 2100 GMT people across Turkey will take part in "democracy watches", rallies commemorating how people poured out into the streets.

'Post-coup purge'

In the wake of the failed coup bid, authorities embarked on the biggest purge in Turkey's history, arresting 50,000 people and sacking almost three times as many. Erdogan also shored up his position by winning a referendum on enhancing his powers earlier this year.

In the latest dismissals, another 7,563 police, soldiers and other state employees were fired late on Friday under the state of emergency that has been in place since July 20 last year.

Turkey's opposition put political disputes aside on the night of the putsch.

Erdogan, who was present at the session, gazed down stonily from the VIP balcony.

Erdogan will later return to Ankara and at 2300 GMT give a speech in parliament to mark the time it was bombed. 

The coup bid also frayed ties between the United States and European Union with NATO member Turkey, which accused its allies of failing to show solidarity.

Gulen has always denied involvement and in a new statement Friday said the accusations were "baseless, politically motivated slanders" and slammed a "witch hunt" of Erdogan's critics.


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