- Among those convicted are pilots who bombed emblematic areas of the capital.
- The government attributes the attempt to overthrow President Erdogan to cleric Fethullah Gülen.
- Tens of thousands of people have been arrested and more than 140,000 have been fired or suspended from their places of work.
A Turkish court on Thursday sentenced 337 people, amongst them Air Force officers and pilots, for the failed coup attempt against President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s government in 2016. It is the grand trial that has been ongoing in the nation’s capital city, Ankara, that culminated in the mass sentencing.
As per a summary of the verdict, accessed by various international media outlets, the jailed were all found guilty of attempting to overthrow the government, attempted assassination of the president, and voluntary murders.
Among those convicted are pilots who bombed emblematic areas of the capital, such as Parliament, and officers who led the attack from Akinci’s military base.
Another 60 people were sentenced to minor sentences, and 75 were acquitted, according to the document.
In total, 475 people were tried in this process, considered the most crucial one in regard to the failed attempted coup in the dawn from 15 to 16 July 2016 at Akinci airbase, the operations center of the military coup.
The then-General Staff Commander, and current Turkish Minister of Defense, Hulusi Akar, and eight other high-ranking soldiers were kidnapped at the said base and released on the morning of July 16. Following the failure of the coup, 251 were killed and over 2,000 were injured.
That night, F16 fighters bombed the Turkish Parliament on three occasions, as well as roads around the presidential palace, Ankara’s special forces, and police headquarters. The bombings left 68 dead and more than 200 injured in the Turkish capital.
“Justice has Been Served”
The grand trial, which began in August 2017, took place in the country’s largest courtroom, built at the Sincan prison complex in Ankara. Despite the COVID-19 pandemic, many of the victims’ relatives went to the scene to attend the last hearing.
“Justice has been served,” Ufuk Yegin, who represents a victims’ families association, told AFP after the verdict was read. “We believe the punishments were given in accordance with existing laws,” he added.
The government attributes the attempt to overthrow President Erdogan to cleric Fethullah Gülen, a former ally who has lived in the United States for two decades. The cleric nonetheless denies the charges.
Gülen and Adil Öksüz, a professor of theology in Ankara, who is considered by the government to be the coup leaders’ operational leader, were tried in absentia. Their cases were separated for another process.
Almost 3,000 Life Sentences
Since the attempted coup d’état, the authorities have constantly pursued Gülen’s supporters. Tens of thousands of people have been arrested and more than 140,000 have been fired or suspended from their places of work.
The waves of detention continue today, but at a less intense pace five years after the coup attempt. Other trials, with a greater number of defendants, are ongoing.
At least 290 trials related to the coup attempt have been concluded. Hearings are still ongoing for another nine.
Since July 2016, courts have so far sentenced over 4,500 people, and nearly 3,000 to life in prison, as per the official figures.