City Officials Deflect Questions About Turkish Memorial in Albania’s Capital

This story originated in FILE – Policemen stand atop military armored vehicles after troops involved in the coup surrendered on the Bosphorus Bridge in Istanbul, Turkey, July 16, 2016.The city of Tirana’s official website, however, made no mention of the event, nor were city hall officials able to provide any records of discussion or documentation about placing the monument on public property, let alone the renaming of public parks and streets.Few answersAsked about who granted permission to place the memorial, Tirana Mayor Erion Veliaj appeared to dodge the question.FILE – U.S.-based cleric Fethullah Gulen at his home in Saylorsburg, Pennsylvania, July 29, 2016.Two-hundred media outlets have been closed, and dozens of reporters jailed.Observers say Erdogan has been using commemorations of the attempted coup, which he blames on his political nemesis, exiled cleric Fethullah Gulen, to consolidate his base amid growing voices of discontent and recent electoral setbacks.The 77-year-old Gulen, a one-time ally of Erdogan, has lived in self-imposed exile in the eastern U.S. state of Pennsylvania for nearly two decades, but Washington has resisted Erdogan’s demand he be returned to his homeland to face charges that he directed the takeover attempt from across the Atlantic.Albania, whose Prime Minister Edi Rama is close with Erdogan, also blames Gulen for the 2016 coup.Just days after last month’s ceremony to unveil the monument, the Turkish Embassy in Tirana posted a statement on its official Facebook page, saying, “With the participation of our Albanian brothers and sisters, we successfully and proudly inaugurated the “15th of July Street of Martyrs” and the “15th of July Democracy Park.”

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