A Turkish court sentences hundreds of military and civilian personnel at an air base to life prison sentences, proclaiming them guilty of involvement in the 2016 failed coup attempt against President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s government.
A total of 475 defendants, including some generals and fighter jet pilots at the Akinci air base, on the outskirts of the capital, Ankara, had been on trial for the past three years, accused of directing the coup and bombing key government buildings, including a section of Turkey’s parliament.
The massive trial was one of two main trials against suspected members of a network led by US-based cleric Fethullah Gulen, whom Ankara accuses of orchestrating the failed attempt.
Gulen, who was also named among the defendants, has denied involvement in the coup that resulted in around 250 deaths and injured thousands. About 30 coup-plotters were also killed.
The court convicts four men — civilians accused of liaising between Gulen’s movement and some military officers — of crimes against the state, attempts to kill the president as well as 77 counts of murder, and sentences them to 79 separate “aggravated” life sentences without the possibility of parole. Fifteen officers, including one-star generals, are also sentenced to the same term.
All 19 are held responsible for the deaths of nine people who were killed by gunshots and 68 people who died in aerial attacks on the parliament building, a police special operations headquarters, the Ankara police department and an area close to Erdogan’s presidential complex.
A total of 337 other defendants are also sentenced to life prison terms. The court acquits 70 of the defendants of all charges. Other defendants received prison terms ranging between six and 16 years.
The court rules that Gulen, an alleged top operative in his movement and four other defendants still wanted by the Turkish authorities, should be tried separately over the charges.
The defendants are expected to appeal Thursday’s verdicts, which were welcomed by members of Erdogan’s ruling party.