Tens of thousands of Turks have joined a pro-democracy rally in Istanbul, condemning Turkey’s failed coup and defending the republic.
The rally was organized by the opposition party CHP (Republican People’s Party) but was backed by President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s AK party (Justice and Development Party), in a rare show of unity.
CHP’s leader Kemal Kilicdaroglu said “democracy won!” but he also warned against the dangers of authoritarianism.
One banner read: “No to the coup, no to dictatorship”.
Many of the CHP supporters gathered in Taksim Square waved flags with a picture of Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, the founder of modern Turkey.
Despite Turkey’s political divisions, Istanbul’s mayor and other AK party leaders joined the opposition demonstrators.
Posters at the rally proclaimed “No to coups”.
In his speech, CHP leader Kemal Kilicdaroglu said that amid the turmoil, “the parliament stood proudly, Turkey stood proudly, lawmakers stood proudly, people in this square have stood proudly, and democracy won!”
However, Kemal Kilicdaroglu also stressed the importance of a free press and freedom of assembly, as well as the dangers of dictatorship and authoritarianism.
The CHP leader said: “The state cannot be governed by grudge, anger and prejudice. Those responsible for the coup should be tried lawfully, with the understanding of abiding by the rule of law.”
In a rare move, pro-government TV channels broadcast the speech live.
President Recep Tayyip Erdogan launched a widespread crackdown following the attempted coup, arresting thousands of service personnel and sacking or suspending thousands of judges, government officials, school teachers and university heads.
Human Rights group Amnesty International said it had received credible evidence of detainees being subjected to beatings and torture, including rape, since the coup attempt.
Amnesty’s Europe director John Dalhuisen in a statement: “It is absolutely imperative that the Turkish authorities halt these abhorrent practices and allow international monitors to visit all these detainees in the places they are being held.”
A state of emergency was declared on July 20, allowing the president and cabinet to bypass parliament when drafting new laws and to restrict or suspend rights and freedoms.
Recep Tayyip Erdogan has also extended the period in which suspects can be detained without charge to 30 days.
Ankara’s chief prosecutor Harun Kodalak has been reported by Turkish media as saying that 1,200 soldiers detained in the wake of the coup have now been released.
Those released were said to be low-ranking soldiers. Thousands of other service personnel, including more than 100 generals and admirals, remain in detention.
On July 23, Turkey’s presidential guard regiment was disbanded after nearly 300 of its members were detained following the failed coup.