A trial against alleged instigators of last year’s failed coup in Turkey opened on Monday at a courthouse on the outskirts of Ankara that was constructed especially to try coup suspects.
A total of 221 people, among them the aide-de-camp of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the former chief of the air force and dozens of senior military officers, stand accused of plotting and orchestrating the attempted coup on July 15. Twelve of the 221 suspects in the current trial remain at large, including the US-based cleric Fethullah Gulen, whom Turkey sees as the mastermind of the uprising.
Gulen has always denied the charge.
The courthouse in the Sincan prison was purpose-built for the coup trials
Calls for death penalty
The suspects were made to parade along a lane leading to the courthouse amid booing from dozens of pro-government protesters holding Turkish flags and calling for the reinstatement of the death penalty. Some threw nooses toward the handcuffed defendants to underline the point.
The state-run Anadolu news agency reported that some 1,500 security personnel were deployed to protect the trial, the largest of several coup-related trials taking place across Turkey.
The main defendants are the former air force commander, General Akin Ozturk, and other alleged members of the so-called “Peace at Home Council” – a group on whose behalf a coup declaration was read on television at the time of the uprising.
Hearings at the trial are expected to last until June 16. The defendants could face life imprisonment if found guilty, with Turkey having previously abolished the death penalty as part of efforts to join the European Union.
Erdogan has, however, recently indicated that it could be reintroduced to deal with the coup plotters.
Ozturk is one of the main defendants
More than 240 people, including many civilians, were killed in the coup attempt after a group of rogue soldiers commandeered tanks, warplanes and helicopters, raiding the state broadcaster and bombing the parliament. Twenty-four coup-plotters were also killed on the night.
An unprecedented crackdown by Ankara following the failed rebellion has seen more than 47,000 people arrested on suspicion of having links to the Gulen movement, while tens of thousands more public sector workers have been removed from their jobs.
Turkish media reported on Monday that two of these workers, an academic and a teacher, have been detained after going on hunger strike for more than two months in protest at their dismissal. The charges against the two, Nuriye Gulmen and Semih Ozakca, have not been made clear.
tj/se (Reuters, AP, AFP)