Turkish court sentences 128 soldiers to life imprisonment on coup charges

There were 128 people sentenced to life imprisonment by an Ankara court for their role in the failed coup of 2016 that sought to topple the government of Turkey’s Recep Tayyip Erdogan in 2016.

The trial of the 224 people who are accused of being among the ringleaders of the coup attempt came to an end with varying prison sentences.

The Ankara 17th High Criminal Court held on Thursday its final hearing of what is considered to be the most important trial among 289 trials against suspected coup-plotters, as most of the defendants were accused of being part of the ‘Peace at Home Council’, a name the main coup plotters allegedly gave themselves.

In all 176 people were handed prison terms,  including the 128 life sentences, while 27 suspects received prison sentences of up to 20 years. The other 35 have been freed pending trial.

The case against 13 fugitives, including the number 1 defendant Fethullah Gulen and Adil Oksuz who were being tried in absentia, was separated from the main coup ringleaders’ trial to be considered at a later time.

Akin Ozturk, the former chief of the Turkish air force who allegedly headed the council was given 141 aggravated life sentence.

Mehmet Disli, the general who was accused of trying to convince then Commander in Chief Hulusi Akar to join the coup, was given 141 aggravated life sentence. Disli is the brother of Saban Disli, a former lawmaker from the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) and Turkey’s ambassador to the Netherlands since September.

Gokhan Sahin Sonmezates, the only general to admit involvement in the coup, was sentenced to 137 aggravated life imprisonment penalties. Sonmezates was also convicted of leading a team tasked with the assassination of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in another court case.

The defendants were convicted of varying charges, including violating the constitution, using coercion and violence in an attempt to overthrow parliament and the Turkish government, attempting to assassinate the president, and killing 251 citizens.

Around 2,000 former military personnel have been sentenced to life imprisonment, with nearly 1,000 being handed aggravated life imprisonment, which is the heaviest sentence delivered in the country, meaning harsher prison conditions, and little chance of early release.

The judge did not allow dozens of relatives of those killed during the coup bid to enter into the hearing. The relatives slammed the judge.

Speaking to reporters, Turkish Justice Minister Abdulhamit Gul commented on the verdicts.

“The Turkish judiciary has set a great example of justice. The trials were carried out within the framework of justice and the Turkish constitution. Nobody will be able to eliminate democracy and the national will in Turkey,” Gul said.

The July 15, 2016 coup attempt left 251 people dead and about 2,200 injured.

Erdogan accused US-based self-exiled Muslim cleric Fethullah Gulen of spearheading the coup bid which allegedly aimed at overthrowing him and his government. The preacher denies any involvement.

Erdogan regime launched a massive crackdown on the Gulen movement following the coup attempt. More than 130,000 were sacked from their civil servant jobs through emergency decrees and 77,000 people were arrested for alleged links to the movement.

A total of 289 coup-linked court cases have been launched so far, 261 of which ended with 3,239 defendants convicted.

Soldiers jailed for over 3000 years as Turkey cracks down on attempted coup

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