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Nearly a million people gather to support Turkish leader after failed coup

A large section of VIP seats overlooking the square were reserved for families of those killed in the coup attempt.

Image: Emrah Gurel

HUNDREDS OF THOUSANDS of people attended a historic pro-democracy rally organised by Turkey’s ruling party, bringing to an end three weeks of demonstrations in support of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan after last month’s failed coup.

By 2pm GMT, Istanbul’s Yenikapi Square was a sea of red and white Turkish flags with many taking part wearing headbands emblazoned with Erdogan’s name.

A huge banner declared “the victory is democracy’s, the square is the people’s”.

The grand “Democracy and Martyrs” rally was being held under tight security with 15,000 police on duty.

Followers of Erdogan’s Justice and Development Party (AKP) have taken to the streets every night since the attempted putsch on 15 July that claimed at least 273 lives including 34 coup plotters.

Turkey Miltary Coup Source: Emrah Gurel

With some media predicting that up to 3.5 million people would attend, an official from the prime minister’s office told AFP that “arrangements were made for three million people”, but could not give an immediate estimate.

The rallies were not limited to Istanbul and the capital Ankara. Thousands rallied in the popular tourist spots of Izmir in the west, Antalya in the south and Diyarbakir in the restive south-east.

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Prime Minister Binali Yildirim appeared briefly on stage in Istanbul before the start of the rally, waving to the crowds after opposition party leaders arrived and shortly before Erdogan appeared with his wife, Emine Erdogan, on stage.

The crowds observed a minute’s silence before a rendition of the national anthem opened the rally followed by readings from the Koran.

A large section of VIP seats overlooking the square were reserved for families of those killed in the coup attempt.

© – AFP, 2016

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