Turkish court gives aggravated life sentences to 7 military officers over transfer of cadets on coup day

Seven out of 16 military officers who stood trial for the transfer of Turkish Air Force Academy cadets from Yalova to İstanbul on the night of a controversial coup attempt on July 15, 2016 have been given aggravated life sentences.

The trial was concluded at the İstanbul 27th High Criminal Court on Wednesday. The seven defendants, who include high-ranking military officers, were given the aggravated life sentences on charges of attempting to overthrow the constitutional order by force. The remaining defendants were given various jail sentences.

During the final hearing of the trial, lawyer Muazzez Görkem Büyükgövez, who represents defendant Hasan Yıldırım, told the court that there is actually no terror organization named “FETÖ” and that what the government calls FETÖ was “totally fabricated.”

The lawyer prompted a warning from the presiding judge with her remarks.

At the end of the trial, the panel of the judges decided to file a criminal complaint against Büyükgövez due to her remarks suggesting that there is no such terror organization as “FETÖ” on allegations of disseminating the propaganda of a “terrorist organisation.”

The Turkish government has prosecuted 1,539 lawyers, arrested 580 and sentenced 103 lawyers to long prison terms since the military coup attempt on July 15, 2016, according to a report released by The Arrested Lawyers Initiative in April 2018.

Last month the state-run Anadolu news agency reported that a total of 285 cases were launched against coup suspects and 889 verdicts of life imprisonment had been handed down in 137 of those cases up until then. Of the 889 rulings, 392 were aggravated life sentences, or life in prison without the possibility of parole. Meanwhile, 1,393 defendants were sentenced to varying jail terms.

Turkey survived a controversial military coup attempt on July 15, 2016 that killed 249 people. Immediately after the putsch, the Justice and Development Party (AKP) government along with President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan pinned the blame on the Gülen movement.

Fethullah Gülen, who inspired the movement, strongly denied having any role in the failed coup and called for an international investigation into it, but President Erdoğan — calling the coup attempt “a gift from God” — and the government initiated a widespread purge aimed at cleansing sympathizers of the movement from within state institutions, dehumanizing its popular figures and putting them in custody.

Turkey has suspended or dismissed more than 150,000 judges, teachers, police and civil servants since July 15. On December 13, 2017 the Justice Ministry announced that 169,013 people have been the subject of legal proceedings on coup charges since the failed coup.

Turkish Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu announced on April 18, 2018 that the Turkish government had jailed 77,081 people between July 15, 2016 and April 11, 2018 over alleged links to the Gülen movement. (SCF with turkishminute.com)

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