Turkey opens trial of 220 alleged coup plotters
ANKARA // Turkey on Monday put on trial 221 suspects, including 27 former generals, accused of being the instigators of a failed military coup last July.
The main defendants are Gen Akin Ozturk, a former air force commander, and about 40 other alleged members of the so-called Peace at Home Council – a group on whose behalf a coup declaration was read on state television.
Other defendants include Col Ali Yazici, the former military aide to president Recep Tayyip Erdogan; Mehmet Disli, the brother of senior ruling party legislator Saban Disli; and Lt Col Levent Turkkan, who was the aide of Turkey’s chief of staff Gen Hulusi Akar.
The suspects face life prison terms if found guilty of charges that include attempting to destroy the government and the parliament, leading an armed terror group, attempting to assassinate the president and killing about 250 people, the state-run Anadolu news agency reported.
Fethullah Gulen, a US-based preacher wanted by Turkey for allegedly orchestrating the coup, is among nine defendants who are being tried in their absence. Mr Gulen has denied any involvement in the coup attempt.
The hearings are taking place in a courthouse and prison complex in Sincan, on the outskirts of Ankara, that was built especially for the trial. Security was tight, with snipers standing guard on rooftops and a drone flying overhead.
The suspects were forced to walk along a lane toward the courthouse, held by military police officers on each arm and each protected by a commando officer. As they walked by, pro-government protesters called for the death penalty to be reinstated and for the defendants to be hanged, although the capital punishment is unlikely to be applied retroactively.
Some held up banners that demanded “the death penalty on behalf of the martyrs of the July 15 coup” while others shouted “traitors!” A rope used for hanging was thrown at one of the defendants.
“We want the death penalty, we don’t want them to be fed and housed here. We want these traitors to be buried without any flag,” said protester Cengiz Ozturk.
Turkey abolished the death penalty as part of its drive to join the European Union but Mr Erdogan has on occasion suggested it could be reimposed to deal with the coup plotters.
The trial is one of many being held across the country to judge the coup suspects. The vast Sincan courtroom, which can hold more than 1,500 people, in February hosted the opening of the trial of 330 suspects accused of murder or attempted murder on the night of July 15.
In a related development on Monday, Amnesty International released a report criticising Turkey’s government for dismissing tens of thousands of public sector employees following the coup, saying the massive crackdown had left teachers, academics, doctors, police officers and soldiers branded as “terrorists” and unable to make a living. It has called on Turkey to end the arbitrary dismissals, saying they have had devastating effects on the individuals and their families.
More than 100,000 public servants have been dismissed and banned from the civil service through decrees issued under the state of emergency for alleged connections to Mr Gulen and groups listed as terror organisations. More than 47,000 people have also been arrested for alleged links to the coup.
The government says the purge is necessary to weed out Mr Gulen’s followers.
* Associated Press and Agence France-Presse
Updated: May 22, 2017 04:00 AM