11/26/2020, 15.53
TURKEY
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Dozens of life sentences and harsh prison for “coup leaders”

About 500 military and civilians are on trial in connection with the 2016 coup. Proceedings focused on events inside the Akinci Air Base, near the capital. Dozens of defendants will serve harsh prison terms for trying to overthrow the government and kill Erdoğan.

Ankara (AsiaNews/Agencies) – A Turkish court handed out plenty of life sentences against some of the 500 people on trial in connection with the failed 2016 military coup.

Many of the defendants are accused of being followers of the Islamic cleric Fethullah Gülen, the alleged mastermind of the attempt to topple the Turkish government.

The trial centred on the events at the Akinci air base, Ankara, from where coup leaders allegedly led their attack.

Dozens of pilots and senior officers at the base were found guilty of trying to overthrow the constitutional order and kill President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. The defendants allegedly bombed several strategic points in the capital, including the parliament building.

At least 27 people were given multiple life sentences each with tougher terms than a normal life sentence. The latter were introduced in 2004 to replace the death sentence.

Out of 475 people currently on trial (365 already in prison), 337 were convicted, including Air Force Commander Akin Ozturk, along with four other ringleaders dubbed "civilian imams" because of their ties to Gülen’s network.

After the night of the attempted coup in mid-July 2016, in which 250 people died and Erdoğan's power wavered for a few hours, the Turkish government launched a full blown witch hunt.

Tens of thousands of alleged participants, at home and abroad – intellectuals, activists, soldiers, judges, teachers, ordinary people – were targeted for links with Fethullah Gülen, the Turkish cleric in exile in Pennsylvania (United States).

According to the president, Gülen’s supporters infiltrated the police forces, the judiciary and other key institutions to create a “state within the state”.

Some 292,000 people were taken into custody with nearly 100,000 held pending trial.

About 150,000 civil servants were sacked or suspended after the coup, including 20,000 expelled from the military. Courts have handed down more than 2,500 life sentences.

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