32 soldiers jailed for life over failed coup

The defendants found guilty of attempts to overthrow the constitutional order and assassinate of the head of state. Another 106 people will have to serve between six and 18 years in prison. 497 defendants on trial. The majority were career soldiers at the time, including presidential guard officers.

Istanbul (AsiaNews) - A Turkish court yesterday sentenced 32 former soldiers to life in prison, found guilty of various charges including "attempted overthrow of the constitutional order" and "attempted murder of the head of state".

The judges' reference is to the (failed) coup of mid-July 2016, which -  according to President Recep Tayyip Erdogan – was orchestrated by (alleged) supporters of the Islamic preacher Fethullah Gülen, once an ally and now the number one enemy of the "sultan" of Ankara.

The convictions are part of a maxi-trial that sees 497 defendants on trial in Ankara, all linked to the failed coup. The majority of these were career soldiers at the time, especially within the presidential guard, the body responsible for the personal security of the head of state.

At first, a lawyer from the presidential entourage spoke of 22 life sentences. In fact, the official Anadolu agency corrects the number to 32 life sentences in total. Other charges that led to the conviction include the assault on TRT public television on the night of the failed coup, for forcing journalists to issue a coup d'état communiqué and for attacking the headquarters of the general staff.

In addition to the 32 life sentences, the judges imposed sentences ranging from six to 18 years in prison for another 106 defendants.

After the night of the attempted coup in mid-July 2016, in which 250 people died and Erdo─čan'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, real or imagined, with Fethullah Gülen, or even priests sentenced to prison for offering a piece of bread in "Christian charity".

Official sources speak of 251 deaths following the coup, but the number could be greater and excludes the minds of the operation, which is joined by over 2,000 wounded. Having regained control of the country, President Erdogan launched a veritable manhunt by targeting Gülen's supporters, with an unprecedented purge in the history of modern Turkey. Tens of thousands were arrested and another 140,000 were fired or relieved of their duties.