Turkey Sentences 121 to Life in Coup Trial

Turkish lawyers hold a protest outside Istanbul’s court on July 17, 2017, demanding the release of Mustafa Yaman, a lawyer who detained that month on suspicion of links to U.S.-based Muslim cleric Fethullah Gulen, accused by Turkey of masterminding last year’s failed coup. Turkey has arrested more than 50,000 people in a large-scale crackdown launched after the failed coup attempt. (AP Photo/Lefteris Pitarakis)

ANKARA, Turkey (AFP) — A Turkish court on Friday handed down life sentences to 121 people for taking part in the 2016 attempted overthrow of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, state media reported.

The court in Ankara sentenced 86 suspects to “aggravated” life imprisonment for “attempting to violate the constitution” and 35 people were given life sentences for the same crime, the official Anadolu news agency said.

An aggravated life sentence has tougher terms of detention. It replaced the death penalty, which Turkey abolished in 2004 as part of its drive to join the EU.

A total of 245 suspects were on trial in the case related to events at the Gendarmerie General Command on the night of July 15, 2016, in Ankara.

Another suspect, former Col. Erkan Oktem, was given nine aggravated life sentences for “willful murder,” Anadolu reported.

The failed coup left 272 people dead, including 24 putschists killed that night.

Turkish Justice Minister Abdulhamit Gul last week said 15 coup-related trials continued from a total of 289 in the biggest legal process in Turkey’s modern history.

After a three-month break because of the coronavirus pandemic, trials in Turkey resumed this month, including the main coup trial focused on events at an air base in Ankara seen as the putschists’ hub. 

That trial began in 2017 and is expected to be completed soon.

Turkey claims U.S.-based Muslim preacher Fethullah Gulen ordered the failed coup, a claim he denies.

Tens of thousands of people have been arrested over alleged links to Gulen, and more than 100,000 have been sacked or suspended from the public sector due to similar suspicions.

© Agence France-Presse

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