Turkey is preparing for a mass popular rally against the recent botched coup as political parties call on people to participate in a show of unity and patriotism.
Huge numbers of people were expected to join the rally in Istanbul’s iconic Taksim square on Sunday. The march was called by the Republican People's Party, Turkey’s main opposition group.
Supporters of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s ruling AKP party also declared their full support for the demonstration.
Officials said public transport in Istanbul would be free of charge on Sunday, apparently to boost the number of participants.
More than 270 people died, including around 100 coup plotters, in the course of the putsch which unfolded late on July 15. Erdogan blamed Fethullah Gulen, a reclusive cleric based in the United States, for the botched attempt and said those behind the coup would pay a heavy price. The government has either arrested or dismissed more than 13,000 soldiers, judges and police officers as part of its controversial crackdown following the coup.
Many have criticized the mass purge. Officials in the European Union have also warned that the expulsions and Turkey’s potential reinstatement of the death penalty as part of the crackdown would affect the country’s long-term bid to join the continental body.
Italy's Prime Minister Matteo Renzi warned Sunday that “a country that jails its own university professors and journalists imprisons its future.”
Prime Minister Binali Yildirim defended the ongoing crackdown, saying the post-coup decisions would consolidate the Turkish democracy.
“The Turkish republic is stronger than it was in the past,” Yildirim wrote in a local newspaper, adding, “Turkey is on democracy watch.... This watch continues until the anti-democratic elements are cleaned out.”
Earlier in the day, Yildirim said it would disband the 2,500-strong Presidential Guard, saying there was “no need” for the elite regiment.