Former coup plot judge given 12 years in prison on terrorism charges

Ali Efendi Peksak, a former judge who was on the panel hearing the 2003 Sledgehammer (Balyoz) coup plot trial, has been handed down a prison sentence of 12 years on terrorism charges due to alleged links to the Gülen movement, Turkish press reported on Thursday.

The Turkish government labels the Gülen movement a “terrorist organization,” although the movement strongly denies involvement in any coup attempt or terrorist activity.

The latest hearing in Peksak’s trial was held at the İstanbul 26th High Criminal Court on Thursday where he was given the 12-year sentence on charges of membership in a terrorist organization.

Sledgehammer was an alleged military coup plot against the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) drafted in 2003. The military is claimed to have planned drastic measures to foment unrest in the country in order to remove the AKP from power.

The authenticity of the Balyoz coup plan was confirmed by President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s ultranationalist ally, Devlet Bahçeli, leader of the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP), in 2015, by former Justice Minister Bekir Bozdağ in 2016, by President Erdoğan in 2016 and by Parliament Speaker Binali Yıldırım in 2018.

The Sledgehammer coup plot included bombing two major mosques in İstanbul, an assault on a military museum by people disguised as religious extremists and the raising of tension with Greece through an attack on a Turkish plane and blaming the incident on Turkey’s Aegean neighbor.

An İstanbul court had sentenced 331 of the 365 suspects to prison on Sept. 21, 2012, while 34 were acquitted. Three retired generals were sentenced to life in prison on charges of “attempting to overthrow the government by force,” but the terms were later reduced to 20 years because of the “incomplete attempt at staging a coup,” the court said.

Turkey’s Constitutional Court handed down a ruling in June 2014 stating that the rights of a majority of the convicted suspects in the Sledgehammer coup plot case were violated as regards “digital data and the defendants’ testimonies.” All 236 Balyoz suspects and convicts, including high-ranking generals, were released directly after the top court’s decision, and they were subsequently acquitted of all charges. (SCF with

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