Turkish gov’t sentences 4 more military officers to aggravated life imprisonments over coup attempt

An Ankara court has sentenced four more military officers to aggravated life imprisonment on Thursday for their alleged involvement in the controversial coup attempt on July 15, 2016 in a case 221 defendants have been tried over their alleged seizure attempt of the Chief of General Staff’s office.

It was reported that the alleged putschists were soldiers in the Mechanized Infantry Brigade in Ankara’s Mamak district and commanded tanks that were sent to the military’s headquarters to seize it. An additional life sentence was handed to one defendant for allegedly killing Mesut Yağan, a civilian who was in an anti-coup crowd that tried to persuade coup plotters to surrender. Thirty-four other defendants in the trial were released.

Abdurrahman Koçoğlu, a lieutenant who was among those sentenced to life in prison at Thursday’s hearing, was accused of firing the shots that killed Yağan. Koçoğlu claimed that he only fired into the air when civilians surrounded them.

According to reports in pro-government media, Maj. Dursun Koca, one of the sentenced defendants, claimed he did not command tanks or troops heading to the military headquarters, although he admitted he accompanied the ones who did. Maj. Ahmet Çelikel, another defendant, claimed he only followed orders while heading to the headquarters and did not know that what was happening was a 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.

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. Turkey’s Interior Minister announced on December 12, 2017 that 55,665  people have been arrested. Previously, 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.

A total of 48,305 people were arrested by courts across Turkey in 2017 over their alleged links to the Gülen movement, said Turkish Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu on Dec. 2, 2018. “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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