ANKARA, Turkey (AFP) — A mass trial resumed in Turkey on Monday of more than 220 suspects, including former generals, accused of being among the ringleaders of last year’s coup bid to unseat President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
The suspects face life sentences if convicted of charges ranging from using violence to try to overthrow the government and parliament, to killing nearly 250 people.
Turkey blames the July 2016 coup attempt on Muslim cleric Fethullah Gulen, a claim he strongly denies.
Gulen, who lives in self-imposed exile in the United States, is among several of the 221 suspects named in the indictment who are on the run.
The rest are due to appear in court in Sincan near the capital Ankara at a facility that was purpose-built to hear coup-related trials.
The attempted coup on July 15, 2016, left 249 people dead, not counting 24 plotters.
Also among the suspects in one of Turkey’s highest-profile prosecutions are several high-ranking military officers including ex-air force commander Akin Ozturk.
Several are accused of leading the so-called “Peace At Home Council,” the name the plotters are said to have given themselves the night of the failed overthrow.
The judge told the court nearly 70 terabytes worth of images from security cameras at the military headquarters during the coup bid would be given to lawyers, state-run news agency Anadolu said.
At the opening of the trial in May, alleged coup plotters were booed by protesters as they entered the courtroom, with some shouting slogans in favor of the death penalty for the suspects.
Fifty-six suspects gave their defense over four weeks after the trial opened, Anadolu said, and the testimonies would continue on Monday.
The trial is one of many being held across the country to judge the coup suspects in what is the biggest legal process of Turkey’s modern history.
The government has launched a massive crackdown under state of emergency laws imposed in the wake of the failed coup which have been extended several times.
Over 140,000 people, including public sector employees, have been sacked or suspended over alleged links to the coup while 50,000 people have been arrested since July 2016.
This week will also see other hearings in Istanbul including journalists from opposition Cumhuriyet newspaper who are standing trial on charges of aiding and abetting terrorist organisations.
One of Turkey’s acclaimed authors Asli Erdogan will appear before a court Tuesday on charges of spreading terror propaganda on account of her links to a pro-Kurdish newspaper.
In December she was released pending trial, after 132 days of pre-trial detention.
Last week, an Istanbul court ordered the release on judicial control of eight human rights activists including Amnesty International’s Turkey director Idil Eser, as well as a German and a Swede.
The cases involving journalists have received criticism from human rights advocates who claim the government is seeking to stifle dissent.