Turkish courts give life sentences to 890 people over alleged links to Gülen movement

Turkish courts have sentenced 890 people to life in prison in 137 cases across Turkey over alleged links to the Gülen movement and coup involvement since a controversial military coup attempt on July 15, 2016.

According to a report by Turkey’s state-run Anadolu news agency, Turkish prosecutors have conducted more than 100,000 investigations targeting alleged members of the Gülen movement since July 15, 2016. Verdicts were given in 137 out of 285 cases that were filed against those allegedly linked to the movement over their suspected involvement in the controversial coup bid.

The report said out of the 889 life sentences handed down, the courts ordered aggravated life sentences for 392 people. Among them were 31 generals, 263 military officers, 50 sergeants, 20 specialised sergeants and 20 military cadets. Six other generals, 165 military officers, 81 sergeants, 118 specialised sergeants, 50 military students and 12 policemen were among 492 defendants given life sentences. Separately, 504 people were sentenced to jail terms ranging from 14 months to 20 years.

On Thursday, a high criminal court in Ankara handed down life sentences to 18 military personnel for their alleged roles in the killing of noncommissioned officer Ömer Halisdemir during the night of the coup attempt. They were found guilty of murder and attempting to overthrow the constitutional order. Five of them were given aggravated life sentences.

Separately, 47 people were sentenced to life imprisonment, including aggravated life for 27 of them, for violating the constitutional order for their alleged participation in the coup bid in Ankara. The court also gave 217 people jail terms ranging from 12 to 20 years for allegedly “providing support to violating the constitutional order.”

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 jailed 77,081 people between July 15, 2016 and April 11, 2018 over alleged links to the Gülen movement.

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