Turkey: rain of convictions in a maxi-trial on the failed putsch

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A Turkish court on Thursday sentenced 337 people, including officers and pilots, to life imprisonment after the main trial over an attempted coup in 2016 targeting President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

These people were found guilty in particular of “attempt to overthrow the constitutional order”, “attempted assassination of the president” and “intentional killings”, according to a summary of the verdict obtained by AFP.

Among those convicted were pilots who bombed several emblematic sites of the capital Ankara, such as the Parliament, and officers and civilians who led the coup from the Akinci military base.

In addition, 60 people were sentenced to various prison terms and 75 acquitted at the end of this trial in which nearly 500 defendants appeared.

The coup attempt officially left 251 dead, excluding coup leaders, and more than 2,000 injured. This event, which traumatized Turkey, gave rise to large-scale purges and led President Erdogan to expand his powers.

Ankara accuses the preacher Fethullah Gülen of having hatched the coup attempt. Mr Gülen, a former ally of the Turkish president who resides in the United States, denies any involvement.

“Justice rendered”

During the night of July 15 to 16, 2016, Ankara was the scene of particularly violent actions on the part of the putschists.

Bombs dropped by F16s have targeted the National Assembly three times, as well as roads around the presidential palace and the headquarters of the special forces and the police.

The bombings left 68 dead and more than 200 wounded in the capital. Nine civilians were killed during an attempt to resist the putschists at the entrance to the Akinci base.

The trial, which concluded on Thursday, began in 2017 in the largest courtroom in the country, specially built in the Sincan prison complex in Ankara province.

Despite the new coronavirus epidemic, many relatives of the victims made the trip Thursday to attend the last hearing which took place under close police surveillance.

In the morning, the court read part of the verdict, announcing the sentencing of 27 people to life imprisonment. The reasoned and detailed court decision was due to be published later Thursday.

“Justice has been served. The state has not left the blood of the martyrs and the wounded uninvited, ”Ufuk Yegin, president of an association of relatives of victims, told AFP after the hearing.

290 trials

Mr. Gülen was also tried in absentia, as was Adil Öksüz, a professor of theology whom Ankara considers to be the operational chief of the putschists. Their files were separated to give rise to a new procedure.

Since the abortive coup, the authorities have relentlessly hunted down Mr. Gülen’s supporters and launched purges on a scale unprecedented in modern Turkish history. Several tens of thousands of people have been arrested and more than 140,000 dismissed or suspended from their duties.

The waves of arrests continue to this day, although their pace has become less intense five years after the attempted coup.

Other trials, with an even larger number of defendants, are ongoing. More than 520 people are on trial in a trial related to the activities of the presidential guard.

No less than 290 trials related to the coup attempt have already been completed while nine others are continuing.

Courts have so far convicted nearly 4,500 people, imposing life sentences on nearly 3,000 of them, according to official figures.

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