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  1. ITV Report

Erdogan addresses tens of thousands as Turkey marks first anniversary of quashed military coup

  • Video report by ITV News Correspondent Helen Callaghan

Turkey's president has addressed tens of thousands of people at a ceremony marking the first anniversary of the country's failed military coup.

Recep Tayyip Erdogan joined the large, flag-waving crowd who took part in a national unity march in Istanbul, converging at the July 15 Martyrs' Bridge to remember 250 people who died trying to resist the coup.

Accompanied by his family and the families of the deceased, he inaugurated a hollow, globe-shaped monument featuring the names of the victims near the foot of the bridge.

The bridge was the scene of clashes between civilians and soldiers in tanks during the coup.

"Exactly a year ago today, around this hour, a treacherous attempt took place," Erdogan said.

President Erdogan inaugurated a monument featuring the names of the victims. Credit: PA

"The July 15 coup attempt is not the first attack against our country, and it won't be the last," he said, referring to a series of terror attacks that also hit the country. "For that reason, we'll first cut the heads off of these traitors."

Along with the march a series of events to honour the 250 people who were killed have also been held.

After crushing the attempted takeover last July, Mr Erdogan went on to win a referendum in April considerably extending the powers of his office - a move that has raised fear among opponents who say he has become increasingly authoritarian.

The rebellion on 15 July 2016 began when a group of military officers commandeered warplanes, helicopters and tanks to attack key government buildings in the capital, including parliament and the presidential palace complex.

A man walk past a poster of photographs of victims of the July 15, 2016 coup attempt. Credit: AP

They held Istanbul's main bridge and square, attacked some government buildings and tried to take over television stations. Police and officers loyal to the government put down the coup within hours.

More than 2,000 people were injured resisting the uprising.

The 250 people who were killed have been hailed as "martyrs" of the coup and include 53 special operations police who died in an attack on their headquarters in Ankara. Some 30 coup organisers are also believed to have died during the failed attempt.

Mr Erdogan is scheduled to deliver a speech in parliament at 2.32am on Sunday - the exact moment the assembly was attacked a year ago.

President Erdogan and his wife, Emine, march with relatives of the victims of the coup. Credit: AP

Marches also took place in the capital, Ankara.

In a special parliamentary session attended by Mr Erdogan, the country's Prime Minister Binali Yildirim recounted how "it has been exactly one year since Turkey's darkest and longest night was transformed into a bright day, since an enemy occupation turned into the people's legend".

Mr Yildirim also thanked the thousands of people who heeded a call by the president to flood the streets to resist the coup: "We are able to come together again here today because of our 250 heroic martyrs, 2,193 heroic veterans and the great Turkish people. Your country is grateful to you."

July 15 has been declared a national holiday, with public transport free in Istanbul and Ankara over the weekend, and bus destination signs displaying messages of congratulations.

After crushing the attempted takeover, President Erdogan went on to win a referendum in April. Credit: AP

The government has blamed the coup on the influential movement led by US-based Muslim cleric Fethullah Gulen, a former Mr Erdogan ally who ran a network of schools, dormitories, media outlets and universities.

Mr Gulen has denied the accusations.

A state of emergency has been in place since the coup attempt that has allowed the government to rule through decrees and without the initial approval from legislators.

Thousands of people march towards the July 15 Martyr's Bridge. Credit: AP

As the country marked one year since the coup, 7,400 civil servants were dismissed from their positions over alleged links to terror groups.

Teachers, academics, military and police officers were sacked late on Friday, including former Istanbul governor Huseyin Avni Mutlu, who was jailed last August for alleged links to US-based cleric Fethullah Gulen.

The government decree also stripped 350 soldiers of their ranks and former national football team players Hakan Sukur and Arif Erdem of their medals.

Over the last year, more than 50,000 people have been arrested for their alleged involvement in the insurgency more than 110,000 others have been fired from civil service jobs.