Thousands take to streets across Turkey for democracy
Erdogan repeats call for extradition of Fetullah Gulen; protests in US in front of Gulen’s home
Thousands of people staged rallies across Turkey to celebrate the victory of democracy after a military coup failed, Anadolu Agency reports.
Responding to President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s call, people flooded the streets and squares of Turkey’s main cities late on Saturday.
In Istanbul, protesters waving flags and chanting democracy slogans gathered at Taksim Square. The group also staged a marched toward the central Istiklal Avenue.
In the capital Ankara, thousands gathered at the central Kızılay Square to protest the coup attempt, chanting anti-coup slogans. Prime Minister Binali Yıldırım was due to address the crowd but it was postponed later. The square was closed to traffic.
Addressing a crowd in Istanbul, Erdogan repeated Ankara’s call to the U.S. to extradite the alleged coup plotter Fetullah Gulen, a preacher and Turkish expartiate who lives in Pennsylvania.
He thanked the two main opposition parties Republican People’s Party (CHP) and National Movement Party (MHP) for not giving credit to the coup attempt.
He also thanked Parliament Speaker Ismail Kahraman and members of parliament for their “honorable stance” against the failed coup.
Ankara Mayor Melih Gokcek of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) said the failed coup proved that the power of arms cannot make Turkey bow.
Security forces rounded up as many as 2,839 military personnel involved in the coup attempt.
Among those arrested were the commander of the 2nd Army Gen. Adem Huduti and its executive officer and Malatya Garrison Commander Avni Angun and the commander of the 3rd Army Gen. Erdal Öztürk.
Some 272 prosecutors and judges in Istanbul were detained and prohibited from leaving the country on Saturday in connection with the failed coup.
The detainees are accused of being members of FETO, the terrorist organization led by Gulen, Istanbul prosecutor’s office said.
Repeating his call to extradite Gulen, Erdogan said: “I had told you [the U.S.] to deport or give this person back to Turkey … I had told you that this person was in preparation for a coup against Turkey, but I could not make you listen to me.
“I repeat my call on the U.S. and president [Barack Obama], ‘give this person back to Turkey.’”
Turkey accuses Gulen of pursuing a plan to overthrow the government through supporters within the Turkish state, particularly the military, police and judiciary.
Erdogan said Friday’s failed coup had not come from within the higher echelons of the army but instead “a small minority within the military.”
“They [Gulen supporters] were like a tumor within the military, and now this tumor is being removed,” he said.
Meanwhile in Pennsylvania, U.S., about a hundred Turkish nationals from neighboring states converged in front of Gulen’s residence in Saylorsburg.
“Obama, make him go!” and “The nation is here, where are the traitors,” the crowd chanted through a megaphone. To passing vehicles, they chanted: “Your neighbor is a terrorist.”
Nejit Zafer Saydam, who traveled from Connecticut to join the protest, told Anadolu Agency that he wants Gulen to face charges in Turkey.
“What we want is this guy be turned over by the U.S. government to the Turkish government so that he can go back and stand trial for what he did to Turkey,” he said.
Musa Kalsavlan, who came from the neighboring state of New Jersey, echoed Saydam, adding the reclusive cleric is “killing Turkish people, he’s killing Muslim people.”
Hasan Guclu, a protest organizer from Delaware, said the demonstration won’t be enough to shame Gulen into returning to his home country to face charges, but the protest is nonetheless significant for raising awareness.
“It is simply not enough to say we (US and Turkey) are allies and not act upon it,” he said.
Guclu is hopeful the situation could change following the coup attempt.
Gulen’s neighbors, Penny and Lester, who did not give their last names, said they are surprised the U.S. government is not helping Turkey in its extradition bid.
Asylum seekers charged with illegal entry
Eight Turkish military officers who fled to Greece by helicopter after a failed coup were charged on Sunday by a prosecutor with illegal entry and violating Greek airspace, Kathimerini, Engligh-language daily, said quoting an AFP report.
The men, who have sought asylum in Greece, arrived by military helicopter on Saturday after sending a distress signal to authorities at the airport in the northern city of Alexandroupolis.
They were prosecuted for illegal entry into Greece, their lawyer, Ilia Marinaki said, adding they will appear in court on Monday. They remained under arrest and had not made contact with their families.
The asylum seekers insist they took no part in the putsch and fled to Greece to save their lives “when policemen started shooting at them.”
Marinaki added that the soldiers – all married and in their forties – feared for the safety of themselves and their families.
Earlier, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu said Ankara has demanded the return of the eight pro-coup soldiers from Greece and Athens has accepted the request.
“The Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Kotzias told me on the phone that they will return the eight traitors who escaped to Greece from Turkey,” he wrote on his Twitter account, adding that the soldiers “won’t be able to escape.”