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Turkey’s Erdogan tells million-strong unity rally: I support death penalty

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02:54 - Source: CNN
Turkish political parties unite for democracy

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Erdogan says return of death penalty supported by public

Sunday rally unites political supporters of all stripes against coup attempt

CNN —  

More than a million Turks united in Istanbul on Sunday night as part of a pro-democracy rally following last month’s failed coup.

The massive demonstration, dubbed the “Democracy and Martyrs’ Rally,” was held at a parade ground in Turkey’s biggest city and saw both supporters of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s AKP party and opposition parties gather.

There, in a sea of red Turkish flags, they expressed support for the democratic process, rejecting a return to the country’s restive past, when military coups were commonplace.

Erdogan also reiterated his willingness to reinstate the death penalty as part of a post-coup realignment of the country’s laws.

During the rally he said that despite the opposition of the European Union, the people of Turkey supported capital punishment – meaning that he had a mandate to sign it into the law.

The parade ground in Turkey's largest city, built to hold more than a million people, was a sea of red.
BULENT KILIC/AFP/AFP/Getty Images
The parade ground in Turkey's largest city, built to hold more than a million people, was a sea of red.

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In an unprecedented show of unity, leaders and supporters of the opposition Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) and Republican People’s Party (CHP) joined Erdogan supporters in light of the failed takeover attempt.

CHP leader Kemal Kilicdaroglu said that the bloody coup attempt, which claimed 239 lives and injured nearly 2,200 others, was the beginning of a new era of compromise.

“Post July 15, now there is a new Turkey. If we can carry this power and the culture of reconciliation even further, we will leave a better Turkey for our children,” he told the crowd, according to Turkish state media.

Hundreds of thousands of people gathered in Istanbul for a pro-democracy rally organised by the ruling party, bringing to an end three weeks of demonstrations.
OZAN KOSE/AFP/AFP/Getty Images
Hundreds of thousands of people gathered in Istanbul for a pro-democracy rally organised by the ruling party, bringing to an end three weeks of demonstrations.

The message of leaders’ and other speakers’ speeches were clear – thanking the Turkish population for standing up for the concept of democracy.

Prime Minister Binali Yildirim said that the takeover attempt had unified the country. “Every coup which does not kill us, makes us stronger. Just like here and now,” he said.

Erdogan said the coup’s architects “made a lot of sinister calculations but miss something. The faith and determination of this nation.” The president lays the blame at the feet of Fethullah Gulen, a one-time ally but now fierce critic who lives in self-imposed exile in the US.

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Over a million gathered to support a democratic Turkey, following the failed takeover attempt.
Ozkan Bilgin/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
Over a million gathered to support a democratic Turkey, following the failed takeover attempt.

Erdogan himself came out and thanked people repeatedly for taking to the streets on the night of the coup to demonstrate against the army factions that were attempting to wrest power from the elected government – it was ultimately the president’s ability to rally the masses that night that allowed his government to stay in power.

He likened the coup plotters to “terrorists wearing military uniforms.”