Turkey renames coup trial site 'democracy island'

Turkey renames coup trial site 'democracy island'

ISTANBUL, Turkey - Turkey on Saturday renamed a tiny island south of Istanbul which has for decades represented a powerful symbol in a country torn between secularism and Islamic traditions.

On Yassiada, now "Democracy and Freedom Island", prime minister Adnan Menderes, his foreign minister Fatin Rustu Zorlu and finance minister Hasan Polatkan went on trial before being hanged by the military junta after a 1960 coup.

The name change is part of plans by Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan's Islamic-rooted government to rebrand names of places, towns and cities that were announced in a "democratisation package" earlier this month.

Yassiada has long been a point of reference for Erdogan's Justice and Development Party (AKP) in its tug-of-war with the military which considers itself as the guardian of Turkish secularism and staged four coups in half a century.

But the 10-hectare (24-acre) island has also become a highly charged symbol for critics of Erdogan's ambitious urban development projects that spawned unprecedented protests earlier this year after steps to redevelop a rare green oasis in central Istanbul, Gezi park.

In April, the government said it was planning to open Yassiada to construction and turn it into a democracy museum as a "lesson" to future generations.

But Radikal newspaper revealed in July that hotels and suites, cafeterias and restaurants, a heliport and exhibition halls would also be built on the island.

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