Court acquits former military cadet sentenced to prison on terrorism charges

Mustafa Enis Durak and his mother drawn by Italian activist and graphic artist Gianluca Costantini.

A former military cadet who was arrested in May to serve a seven year, six month sentence for links to the Gülen movement has been acquitted by a regional court of terrorism charges, Turkish Minute reported, citing a tweet by his brother.

Mustafa Enis Durak, 22, who is currently a third-year medical student, had been arrested three times over a period of six months due to his links to the Gülen movement. He was first arrested on December 6, 2021 but was released 20 days later. He was re-arrested on April 14 and sent to a prison in Izmir only to be freed a week later. He was finally arrested in May to serve his sentence.

The Turkish government accuses the Gülen movement of masterminding a failed coup on July 15, 2016 and labels it a “terrorist organization,” although the movement strongly denies involvement in the coup attempt or any terrorist activity.

The İzmir Regional Court, which serves as an appeals court but also can make final rulings without the need for a retrial, ruled for Durak’s acquittal on the grounds that there was no evidence to substantiate the charges against him.

Durak was accused of taking part in religious meetings when he was a military cadet and observing Islamic practices such as praying, which are strictly regulated by the Turkish army. He was pressured to give up the names of his friends who attended the meetings; however, Durak refused and denied all the accusations.

His acquittal was announced on Tuesday on Twitter by his brother Kerim Durak, who also posted a photo of him, Mustafa Enis and their mother.

Durak’s family previously said he was only 14 when he was accepted at a military high school in İstanbul. He was 16 when the coup attempt took place, and according to his family, he cannot be held accountable.

Shortly after the coup attempt, the government closed war academies, military high schools and prep schools and replaced them with a military university under the jurisdiction of the Ministry of Defense.

A total of 259 military cadets were detained on coup charges on July 16, 2016 and were arrested four days later. The cadets were indicted a year after they were put in pretrial detention, and their trial was concluded in May 2018.

One hundred seventy-eight of the cadets were given life sentences on charges of attempting to overturn the constitutional order and attempting to overthrow the Turkish government and parliament by use of force as well as membership in a terrorist organization.

The cadets say they didn’t know a coup attempt was underway and were acting on orders from their superiors, who told them there was a terrorist attack.

In late June more than 60 former air force cadets who were convicted on coup charges and sentenced to life in prison were released pending retrial after the country’s Supreme Court of Appeals overturned their sentences.

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