A court in Ankara sentenced dozens of people, including former military officials attached to the presidential guard, to life in prison over their links to a failed 2016 coup attempt, Turkish media reported Wednesday.
At least six of the defendants received aggravated life sentences for “violating the constitution.”
Aggravated life sentences are the most severe punishment possible in Turkey since the country abolished the death penalty. There is no possibility of parole.
Nearly 500 defendants faced sentencing during Wednesday’s hearing, which looked into the actions of Turkey’s presidential guard during the coup attempt.
Wednesday’s mass trial had been underway since 2017, and was part of a sweepingongoing legal process involving hundreds of trials to prosecute those accused of being involved with the coup attempt.
What were the charges?
Several of the defendants in Wednesday’s hearing were accused of occupying the headquarters of state broadcaster TRT in Ankara on the night of the coup in July 2016 and forcing the news anchor to read out a statement.
A judge sentenced former lieutenant colonel Umit Gencer to life behind bars for “violating the constitutional order” by making the TRT broadcaster read the “coup declaration.”
Ex-major Fedakar Akca was given an aggravated life sentence for leading a guard regiment on the night of the coup attempt, Turkey’s Anadolu news agency reported.
More than 100 other defendants were given sentences of up to 16 years for years for violating the constitution, Anadolu said, adding that more than 100 people were acquitted.
What happened during the coup?
More than 250 people were killed in the July 15, 2016, attempt to overthrow the government of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
During the effort, rogue soldiers took control of warplanes, helicopters and tanks and tried to take over key state institutions.
Turkey believes a movement loyal to the Muslim cleric, Fethullah Gulen, was behind the 2016 plot.
Gulen, a Muslim preacher who was once an Erdogan ally, has lived in exile in the United States since 1999.
He denies any involvement in the failed putsch. Ankara brands his group a terrorist organisation, but Washington says it will not extradite him.
About 292,000 people have been detained over alleged connections to Gulen, according to Turkey’s interior ministry.
Some 150,000 civil servants were sacked or suspended after the coup attempt. Courts have imposed more than 2,500 life sentences and the defense ministry says more than 20,000 people have been expelled from the military.
wmr/rs (dpa, AFP)