In Turkey, 121 sentenced to life in prison during trial for 2016 coup

In Turkey, 121 sentenced to life in prison during trial for 2016 coup

A Turkish court has sentenced 121 people to life in prison for their involvement in the 2016 coup attempt to take down President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s government, state media reported.

The court in Ankara sentenced 86 suspects to “aggravated” life imprisonment for “attempting to violate the constitution” while 35 individuals were given life sentences for the same crime, the official Anadolu news agency said. An aggravated life sentence has tougher terms of detention.

It was brought in to replace 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 the Turkish capital.

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

The failed coup left 248 people dead, excluding 24 putschists killed that night.

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

After a three-month break because of the novel 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.

In the aftermath, the government blamed Fethullah Gulen, a cleric with a large following, and Erdogan asked the US to handover Gulen.

Gulen, who lives in exile in the United States, denied claims of his involvement and condemned the coup.

Over the last three years, Erdogan has systematically targeted opposition figures, including journalists, academics, judges, government figures, and followers of the Gulen movement.

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

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