ISTANBUL: Turkey announced the dismissal of another 7,000 police, soldiers and officials on Friday, the eve of the anniversary of a military-led coup that failed to topple President Tayyip Erdogan.
It is the latest move in an unprecedented purge by the Turkish authorities, who have arrested some 50,000 people and sacked over 100,000 more in the wake of the thwarted bid to overthrow Erdogan on July 15 last year.
A total of 7,563 people have been sacked in the latest cull, the state-run Anadolu news agency reported, with nearly 350 retired army members also stripped of their rank. Hurriyet daily reported that some 2,300 police were dismissed.
The new decree came a day before Turkey holds a major programme of events to mark the one-year anniversary of the coup attempt, blamed by the authorities on US-based Muslim preacher Fethullah Gulen.
Gulen on Friday again denied any involvement in what he called a "despicable putsch," and called on Ankara to end its "witch hunt" of his followers.
"Accusations against me related to the coup attempt are baseless, politically motivated slanders," Gulen, who lives at a compound in rural Pennsylvania, said in a statement.
"I reiterate my condemnation of the despicable putsch and its perpetrators," he said, while decrying a government "witch hunt to weed out anyone it deems disloyal to President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his regime."
The attempted putsch came when a disgruntled faction in the army sent tanks into the streets and planes into the sky in a bid to oust Erdogan.
War planes bombed Ankara and tanks surged into the streets of Istanbul in a night of violence that left 249 people dead, but the bid was swiftly thwarted as the authorities regrouped and people poured into the streets in support of Erdogan.
- Late-night commemorations -
Ankara insists the post-coup crackdown is necessary to tackle the threat they say is posed by the Gulen movement, but activists and Western governments have criticised it as excessive.
Gulen called for an independent international investigation of the coup attempt, saying "hundreds of thousands" of innocent Turks had been punished simply for suspected links to him.
"The government's treatment of innocent citizens during the past year is dragging Turkey into the category of the countries with the worst record of democracy, the rule of law and fundamental freedoms in the world," Gulen said.
Saturday's events begin with a special session of parliament, after which Erdogan will take part in a people's march on the bridge over Bosphorus that saw bloody fighting on the night of the coup, since renamed Bridge of the Martyrs of July 15.
At midnight local time (2100 GMT) people across Turkey will take part in "democracy watches", rallies commemorating how people poured out into the streets.
Erdogan will return to Ankara and give a speech to parliament at 2:00 am -- the time it was bombed on the night of the attempted putsch.
A monument to those killed will then be unveiled outside his palace in the capital as the dawn call to prayer rings out.