Pro-Erdogan rally in Germany to draw 30,000

COLOGNE, Germany, July 31 (UPI) — Police were bracing Sunday for about 30,000 people to descend on Cologne to show support for Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, as well as thousands of others for counter demonstrations.

About 2,300 officers were deployed at the rally, which was organized by the Union of European-Turkish Democrats.

Four counter marchs of about 1,500 each were planned.

About 3 million people of Turkish heritage live in Germany.

The rally and demonstrations come after terrorism in the country linked to Islamic State in the past few weeks.

Cologne’s police Chief Juergen Mathies noted that “extremely different political opinions” would be on hand and warned his force would counter “any form of violence.”

Germany won’t allow Erdogan’s participation via videoconference.

A senior Turkish officials says the ban violates freedom of expression.

“It’s unacceptable,” said Erdogan’s spokesman, İbrahim Kalın.

The German Federal Constitutional Court upheld the decision to ban the video link.

Relations between the two countries are tense. Turkey pulled its ambassador from Berlin after the Bundestag’s decision to recognize the 1915 mass killings of Ottoman Armenians as genocide.

On July 15, Turkish armed forces attempted a coup, which failed.

More than 750 soldiers arrested since the coup attempt are being released, state media reported Saturday. But 231 members of the military remain in custody and another 1,700 military personnel have been expelled and dishonorably discharged.

Through Saturday, Erdogan said, 18,699 people have been detained and 10,137 have been charged. Also, about 3,500 have been released.

Turkey also has suspended or removed more than 60,000 people from jobs in the military, security services, judiciary and media.

The president said all of Turkey’s military training academies would be closed and replaced by a single national defense university.

Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim said Friday the main air base in capital Ankara and other key military installations in Istanbul would also be shut down. Those bases, used by the coup organizers, would instead be turned into memorials for the 300 victims who died in the coup attempt.

According to a statement by Turkish armed forces, 8,651 soldiers took part in the failed coup attempt, making up 1.5 percent of the military’s total personnel.



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