Turkish court gives life sentences to 38 military personnel over their alleged role in coup bid

The Turkish government detained dozens of people on Monday over suspected links to the Gülen movement as part of a massive post-coup witch hunt, while a court in Ankara handed down life sentences to 38 military members for their alleged role in a controversial coup attempt on July 15, 2016.

Police detained 25 active duty military officers in Ordu, Adıyaman, Tekirdağ, Ağrı, Kahramanmaraş, Kars, Şırnak, Van, Antalya, Hakkari, İstanbul, Ankara and Sakarya provinces on Monday following the issuance of detention warrants by the Ordu Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office for 25 people over alleged links to the Gülen movement.

Meanwhile, 48-year-old Murat Elmas was detained along with five others on Monday on a Greek-flagged yacht in the Aegean resort town of Marmaris on claims that they are linked to the Gülen movement.

Elmas, who used to be a theology teacher at a private school closed down by the government over its suspected affiliation with the movement during an ongoing state of emergency declared after the failed coup, was reportedly making plans to flee to Greece on a fake identity card. The other people were also accused of using fake identities. The ByLock messaging app was allegedly found on three mobile phones seized from the detainees.

Turkish authorities believe the ByLock is a communication tool among followers of the Gülen movement. Tens of thousands of people, including civil servants, police officers, soldiers, businessmen and even housewives, have either been dismissed or arrested for using ByLock since the failed coup attempt on July 15, 2016.

Also on Monday, the Ankara 18th High Criminal Court at Sincan Prison in Ankara sentenced 11 military personnel to aggravated life and 27 military members to life over their alleged involvement in the controversial military coup attempt in July 2016 in a case involving a tank battalion attached to the 28th Mechanized Infantry Brigade Command in the Mamak district of Ankara province. The court acquitted 11 privates.

According to a report by Turkey’s state-run Anadolu news agency, military officers Turan Baysal, Adil Baykal, Abdullah Çakır, Hüseyin Nişancı, İsmail Göktürk, Mahmut Onur Uçar, Eray Koç, Ahmet Özkılıç, Nuri Büyükyazı, Bayram Kılıç and Fatih Anaz were handed down aggravated life sentences. Büyükyazı received six aggravated life sentences, Kılıç two and Anaz three.

The court also sentenced military officers Selim Gedikli, Ramazan Ulutaş, Mustafa Ümit Taşpınar, Soner Demirci, Fatih Topal, Uğur Kaya, Halil İbrahim Çubuk, Ali Aksoy, Şerafettin Atmaca, Mehmet Levent Özer, Rıfat Gökçen, Vedat İpek, Erkan Doğru, Kadir Özsağlam, Sinan Karışmaz, Mehmet Cankurt, Uğur Aymayan, Yunus Parakazan, Aslan Köse, Yunus Akyüz, Ziya Özgür Çiçek, Mehmet Akdeniz, Mustafa Durdu, Emrah Cesim, Serhat Şahin, Atakan Göktürk and Ercan Yalçın to life in prison.

The court sentenced military officers Süleyman Kırsever, Mutlu Dilek, Ferhat Coşkun, Samet Karakuş, İsmet Uğurlu, Süleyman Erkaç, Mehmet Çınar, Uğur Özel, İlhami Aytemiz, Mustafa Toker, Ersel Yaşar, Yusuf Kenan Deniz, Rüçhan Öner and Yunus Ünlüsoy to 12 years, six months in prison for their alleged role in the coup attempt.

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 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 other civil servants since July 2016. Turkey’s interior minister announced on December 12, 2017 that 55,665 people have been arrested. On December 13, the Justice Ministry announced that 169,013 people have been the subject of legal proceedings on coup charges since the failed coup.

A total of 48,305 people were arrested by courts across Turkey in 2017 over their alleged links to the Gülen movement, Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu said on Dec. 2, 2017. “The number of detentions is nearly three times higher,” Soylu told a security meeting in İstanbul and claimed that “even these figures are not enough to reveal the severity of the issue.”

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