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Turkey issues life sentences over failed 2016 coup

November 26, 2020

Fethullah Gulen, a US-based Muslim preacher who was once an Erdogan ally, is accused of ordering the failed putsch. His movement has been proscribed as a terrorist group by Ankara, although he denies all charges.

Turkish anti-riot forces stand guard at the courthouse
Image: picture-alliance/abaca

A Turkish court on Thursday sentenced 337 suspects to life in jail over a 2016 coup attempt against President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. A total of 475 defendants were on trial, 365 of them in jail.

It is the latest ruling in a series of cases that began in 2017 to try those accused of trying to overthrow the goverment in a coup that left at least 250 dead and more then 2,000 people injured.

What were the sentences in detail?

According to Turkish news agency Anadolu, 25 F-16 pilots were given aggravated life sentences while four civilians were each given 79 life sentences.

Prosecutors argued former air force commander Akin Ozturk and others at the Akinci air base directed the coup, bombed government buildings, and attempted to kill President Erdogan.

A total of 475 people were on trial, 365 of them in custody.

Defense attorney Turgay Özcan represents five of those who were on trial. He told DW that the whole process was riddled with irregularities. 

'The evidence was not properly and thoroughly evaluated during the investigation phase. As a result, the trial was not conducted properly,' he said.

"Aggravated life sentences" come with tougher terms than a normal life sentence. They were brought in to replace the death penalty which Turkey abolished in 2004 as part of its long-stalled drive to join the EU.

Fethullah Gülen, the US-based cleric.
Turkey accuses Fethullah Gülen, the US-based cleric, of masterminding the putschImage: picture-alliance/dpa/S.Suna

What was the 2016 coup?

Turkey believes a movement loyal to the Muslim cleric, Fethullah Gulen, was the mastermind of 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.

Rebel soldiers had attempted to overthrow the government overnight and plotters tried to detain Erdogan as he holidayed in an Aegean resort.

However, he had left 15 minutes before and the coup was thwarted by civilians and soldiers loyal to the president.

What were the repercussions?

Shortly after the alleged coup, Turkish authorities launched a crackdown on those believed to support it.

Officials dismissed tens of thousands of public sector employees and and arrested at least 50,000.

Erdogan's critics say he is using the purge to stifle political dissent.

jf/rt (AFP, Reuters, Anadolu)

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