'Traitors' Cemetery' reserved for Turkey's coup plotters

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Traitors' Cemetery in Turkey
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Traitors' Cemetery in Turkey
A sign reading in Turkish "Traitors' Cemetery" is seen in front of unmarked graves, built specifically to hold the bodies of coup plotters who died in the failed military coup of July 15, in eastern Istanbul Wednesday, July 27, 2016. In the week following the attempted coup, the local municipality announced it intended to set up a cemetery specifically for those involved - traitors who didn't deserve a decent burial. (AP Photo/Bram Janssen)
Unmarked graves are seen at the "Traitors' Cemetery", built specifically to hold the bodies of coup plotters who died in the failed military coup of July 15, in eastern Istanbul Wednesday, July 27, 2016. In the week following the attempted coup, the local municipality announced it intended to set up a cemetery specifically for those involved - traitors who didn't deserve a decent burial. (AP Photo/Cavit Ozgur)
Unmarked graves are seen at the "Traitors' Cemetery", built specifically to hold the bodies of coup plotters who died in the failed military coup of July 15, in eastern Istanbul Wednesday, July 27, 2016. In the week following the attempted coup, the local municipality announced it intended to set up a cemetery specifically for those involved - traitors who didn't deserve a decent burial. (AP Photo/Cavit Ozgur)
The grave of Captain Mehmet Karabekir (R), one of the perpetrators who died in the failed military coup, pictured at the "Traitors' Cemetery", set up specifically for coup plotters who participated July 15 abortive putsch, in Istanbul, Turkey, July 29, 2016. REUTERS/Osman Orsal
Unmarked graves are seen at the "Traitors' Cemetery", set up specifically to bury the bodies of coup plotters who died in the failed military coup of July 15, in Istanbul, Turkey, July 29, 2016. REUTERS/Osman Orsal
A security guard walks at the "Traitors' Cemetery", built specifically to bury the bodies of coup plotters who died in the failed military coup of July 15, in Istanbul, Turkey, July 29, 2016. REUTERS/Osman Orsal
Unmarked graves are seen at the "Traitors' Cemetery", set up specifically to bury the bodies of coup plotters who died in the failed military coup of July 15, in Istanbul, Turkey, July 29, 2016. REUTERS/Osman Orsal
Unmarked graves are seen at the "Traitors' Cemetery", set up specifically to bury the bodies of coup plotters who died in the failed military coup of July 15, in Istanbul, Turkey, July 29, 2016. REUTERS/Osman Orsal
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Captain Mehmet Karabekir's body was not washed before burial. Nobody recited prayers from the Koran before he was laid to rest in a hastily dug hole near an animal shelter, denied all Muslim rites.

He is among the dozens of Turkish soldiers accused of trying to overthrow President Tayyip Erdogan and the government in a failed military coup this month, his fate a sign of the fury felt over a night of bloodletting that killed more than 240 people.

Karabekir lies with no tombstone next to three other two-meter deep holes prepared with a mechanical digger. He was the first to be buried in a plot of land of about a quarter of an acre sectioned off last weekend in a disused part of a construction site on the eastern outskirts of Istanbul.

Istanbul Mayor Kadir Topbas called it "The Traitors' Cemetery" - established, he said, specifically for coup plotters in the military.

The government of Turkey - a predominantly Muslim country - has detained, removed or suspended tens of thousands of people in the civil service, military judiciary and elsewhere over their suspected links with perpetrators of the attempted putsch.

While the crackdown has drawn concern and criticism from Western capitals, rights groups and some domestic opponents of the government, most Turks have shown unity in their opposition to the coup attempt, with regular rallies of solidarity.

But, for many people, the retribution across the country has gone too far with the "Traitors' Cemetery."

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Turkey PM Adviser: Traitors Will Be Punished

There has been widespread criticism this week, not just from rights groups, but also from Turks who took to social media to express their opposition.

This reaction has led officials to distance themselves from the cemetery.

Even though Turkey's religious authority has said it will not provide Islamic funeral services for coup soldiers, a spokesman told Reuters that top cleric Mehmet Gormez did not support the establishment of a burial ground for traitors, saying it was hurtful to the families of the dead.

On Thursday Mayor Topbas, who was among the local officials who came up with the idea, told broadcaster TGRT Haber that he had ordered the removal of its "Traitors' Cemetery" signage - though it was unclear if the plot would continue to be used for the same purpose.

A spokesman for the mayor did not return repeated phone calls.

There is no suggestion that Erdogan or the central government had any link with the municipal decision to establish the Istanbul burial ground.

Local media reported that Karabekir's family refused to claim his body, prompting the authorities to bury him in the makeshift grave on Monday. His sister-in-law, when contacted by Reuters, said the family did not want to make any comment and requested privacy.

"Nobody should go to God with such darkness," said a resident in the Acibadem area of Istanbul, where officials and newspapers said Karabekir shot dead a local administrator as he and a group of soldiers tried to seize a building. She declined to give her name due to the sensitive nature of the issue.

RELATED: See photos from the coup

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Possible military coup in Turkey
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Possible military coup in Turkey
People take cover near a bridge during an attempted coup in Istanbul, Turkey July 16, 2016. REUTERS/Yagiz Karahan
Turkish solders stay with weapons at Taksim square as people protest agaist the military coup in Istanbul on July 16, 2016. Turkish military forces on July 16 opened fire on crowds gathered in Istanbul following a coup attempt, causing casualties, an AFP photographer said. The soldiers opened fire on grounds around the first bridge across the Bosphorus dividing Europe and Asia, said the photographer, who saw wounded people being taken to ambulances. / AFP / OZAN KOSE (Photo credit should read OZAN KOSE/AFP/Getty Images)
Turkish solders stay with weapons at Taksim square as people protest agaist the military coup in Istanbul on July 16, 2016. Turkish military forces on July 16 opened fire on crowds gathered in Istanbul following a coup attempt, causing casualties, an AFP photographer said. The soldiers opened fire on grounds around the first bridge across the Bosphorus dividing Europe and Asia, said the photographer, who saw wounded people being taken to ambulances. / AFP / OZAN KOSE (Photo credit should read OZAN KOSE/AFP/Getty Images)
People demonstrate outside Ataturk international airport during an attempted coup in Istanbul, Turkey, July 16, 2016. REUTERS/Huseyin Aldemir TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
ANKARA, TURKEY - JULY 16: People react against military coup attempt, at Kizilay square in Ankara, Turkey on July 16, 2016. (Photo by Abdulhamid Hosbas/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
A group of approximately 50 young citizens of Turkey hold their national flag and shout slogans in support for Turkish President Recep Tayip Erdogan and his government, in Sarajevo on early on July 16, 2016. Turkish citizens, mostly students who reside in Bosnian capital, responded to Erdogan's call for citizens to get out on the streets and show support for Turkey's government during the military coup. / AFP / ELVIS BARUKCIC (Photo credit should read ELVIS BARUKCIC/AFP/Getty Images)
Turkish military block access to the Bosphorus bridge, which links the city's European and Asian sides, in Istanbul, Turkey, July 15, 2016. REUTERS/Stringer
Turkish security officers detain Turkish police officers (in black) on July 15, 2016 in Istanbul, during a security shutdown of the Bosphorus Bridge. The Turkish military on July 15 said that it had assumed power over Turkey, in what the prime minister has termed an illegal act. 'The power in the country has been seized in its entirety,' said a military statement read on NTV television, without giving further details. The military's website was not immediately accessible. / AFP / Yasin AKGUL (Photo credit should read YASIN AKGUL/AFP/Getty Images)
ANKARA, TURKEY - JULY 15 : 'There is an uprising attempt from within the army,' says Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim. 'Those who are doing this will be punished in the hardest way.' (Photo by Ahmet zgi/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
ISTANBUL, TURKEY - JULY 15: Turkish soldiers block Istanbul's Bosphorus Brigde on July 15, 2016 in Istanbul, Turkey. Istanbul's bridges across the Bosphorus, the strait separating the European and Asian sides of the city, have been closed to traffic. Reports have suggested that a group within Turkey's military have attempted to overthrow the government. Security forces have been called in as Turkey's Prime Minister Binali Yildirim denounced an 'illegal action' by a military 'group', with bridges closed in Istanbul and aircraft flying low over the capital of Ankara. (Photo by Gokhan Tan/Getty Images)
Turkish soldiers block Istanbul's iconic Bosporus Bridge on Friday, July 15, 2016, lit in the colours of the French flag in solidarity with the victims of Thursday's attack in Nice, France. A group within Turkey's military has engaged in what appeared to be an attempted coup, the prime minister said, with military jets flying over the capital and reports of vehicles blocking two major bridges in Istanbul. Prime Minister Binali Yildirim told NTV television: "it is correct that there was an attempt," when asked if there was a coup. (AP Photo/Emrah Gurel)
A Turkish soldier stands on guard on the side of the road on July 15, 2016 in Istanbul, during a security shutdown of the Bosphorus Bridge. The Turkish military on July 15 said that it had assumed power over Turkey, in what the prime minister has termed an illegal act. 'The power in the country has been seized in its entirety,' said a military statement read on NTV television, without giving further details. The military's website was not immediately accessible. / AFP / Yasin AKGUL (Photo credit should read YASIN AKGUL/AFP/Getty Images)
Turkish security officers detain Turkish police officers (in black) on July 15, 2016 in Istanbul, during a security shutdown of the Bosphorus Bridge. The Turkish military on July 15 said that it had assumed power over Turkey, in what the prime minister has termed an illegal act. 'The power in the country has been seized in its entirety,' said a military statement read on NTV television, without giving further details. The military's website was not immediately accessible. / AFP / BULENT KILIC (Photo credit should read BULENT KILIC/AFP/Getty Images)
ANKARA, TURKEY - JULY 15 : 'There is an uprising attempt from within the army,' says Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim. 'Those who are doing this will be punished in the hardest way.' (Photo by Ahmet zgi/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
ANKARA, TURKEY - JULY 15 : 'There is an uprising attempt from within the army,' says Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim. 'Those who are doing this will be punished in the hardest way.' (Photo by Ahmet zgi/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
ANKARA, TURKEY - JULY 15 : 'There is an uprising attempt from within the army,' says Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim. 'Those who are doing this will be punished in the hardest way.' (Photo by Ahmet zgi/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
Police officers stand guard near the Turkish military headquarters in Ankara, Turkey, July 15, 2016. REUTERS/Tumay Berkin TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
Turkish military block access to the Bosphorus bridge, which links the city's European and Asian sides, in Istanbul, Turkey, July 15, 2016. REUTERS/Stringer
Turkish soldiers are seen on the Asian side of Istanbul, Friday, July 15, 2016. A group within Turkey's military has engaged in what appeared to be an attempted coup, the prime minister said, with military jets flying over the capital and reports of vehicles blocking two major bridges in Istanbul. Prime Minister Binali Yildirim told NTV television: "it is correct that there was an attempt," when asked if there was a coup. (AP Photo/Emrah Gurel)
An injured man is carried near a bridge during an attempted coup in Istanbul, Turkey July 16, 2016. REUTERS/Yagiz Karahan
A group within Turkey's military has attempted to overthrow the government, Prime Minister Binali Yildirim said as security forces closed bridges along the Bosphorus and descended on Ankara and Istanbul.
A group within Turkey's military has attempted to overthrow the government, Prime Minister Binali Yildirim said as security forces closed bridges along the Bosphorus and descended on Ankara and Istanbul.
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POWER GRAB

On July 15-16, rogue soldiers commandeered fighters jets, helicopters and tanks to close bridges and try to seize airports. They bombed parliament, police headquarters and other key buildings in their bid for power.

Erdogan blamed his ally-turned-foe Fethullah Gulen, a U.S.-based Islamic cleric, for orchestrating the attempted power grab and warned the perpetrators would pay a heavy price.

Gulen denies the accusations, but authorities have launched a crackdown on his vast network of followers, removing or suspending more than 60,000 soldiers, police, judges, teacher, diplomats and journalists.

Almost two thirds of Turks believe Gulen was behind the coup attempt, according to a phone poll of 1,496 people released on Tuesday. The Andy-Ar survey showed nearly 4 percent blamed the United States or foreign powers and about 2 percent blamed Erdogan.

RELATED: Nearly 16,000 arrested in failed coup

Turkey Arrests Nearly 16,000 People Over Failed Coup

The extensive purges that have followed have been internationally contentious. Erdogan's critics fear he is using the events to crack down on all forms of dissent.

Rights group Amnesty International has said it had received credible evidence of detainees being subjected to beatings and torture, including rape, since the coup attempt - accusations roundly rejected by Turkish officials and the justice ministry.

The cemetery, guarded by private security guards and located inside the gated building site around 50 km (31 miles) east of Istanbul's city center, has won some approval from some Turks but has largely drawn criticism.

"This practice is not right and our president Gormez has expressed his disapproval of it to the relevant authorities," the spokesman for the Religious Affairs Directorate said.

Following the criticism, Karabekir, buried on Monday, may be the only person put to rest there.

"We have been told more people might be brought here but that hasn't been the case," said a security guard at the site.

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