Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan made a fiery speech here before hundreds of thousands of supporters on the first anniversary of the failed coup against his government.
Capping a day filled with ceremonies commemorating the events of July 15, 2016, the president on Saturday addressed a rally in Istanbul at the Bosporus bridge where opponents of the putsch clashed with rebellious soldiers a year ago, Efe news reported.
The span has been renamed July 15 Martyrs Bridge in honour of the 249 people who died in the foiled uprising.
“First of all we will chop off the heads of those traitors,” Erdogan said, inspiring some in the crowd to call out for the restoration of the death penalty, which Turkey abolished in 2004.
The president, who supports the return of capital punishment, promised to sign such a measure if parliament passed it, though the current make up of the legislature makes that unlikely.
Moreover, a restored death penalty could not be imposed retroactively on people convicted for taking part in the coup.
Erdogan hailed the civilians who, “with faith as their only weapon,” stood up to the putschist soldiers, and he spoke of “the independence and future we obtained in return for that sacrifice.”
The Turkish government blames the attempted coup on supporters of exiled Muslim preacher Fethullah Gülen, who was an ally of Erdogan until 2013.
Ankara has asked the US to extradite Gülen, who lives in Pennsylvania.
Under a state of emergency imposed by Erdogan in the wake of the failed coup, around 140,000 public employees – police, judges and teachers, among others – have been fired from their jobs on allegations of Gülenist ties.
Roughly 50,000 people remain in preventive detention awaiting trial for ostensible links to the coup attempt.
The government has also shut down media outlets and arrested opposition politicians, including some known to be hostile to Gülen’s Islamist agenda.