Turkish gov’t sentences 5 military officers to aggravated life sentences over coup claims

Turkish government has sentenced 5 more military officers to aggravated life sentences on Thursday for their alleged actions at İstanbul’s Disaster Coordination Center on the night of the controversial coup attempt on July 15, 2016.

İstanbul’s 25th High Criminal Court has sentenced the five military officers to aggravated life sentences for violating the Constitution. They were also sentenced to 41 years behind bars for harming property and causing intentional injury.

Also on Thursday, at least 35 people have been detained across Turkey over their alleged links to the Gülen movement as part of Turkish government’s massive post-coup witch hunt campaign targeting the alleged members of the movement.

Police have detained 26 people, including wives of police officers, in 23 provinces across Turkey following the detention warrants issued by a prosecutor for 53 people over their alleged links to the Gülen movement. Some of the detainees have also been accused of using mobile phone messaging application ByLock.

Turkish authorities believe that ByLock is a communication tool among the alleged 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.

Separately, 8 people, including 4 women, were detained during simultaneous raids in 8 provinces, among them İstanbul and Ankara, for allegedly being involved in “health structure” of the Gülen movement and  for alleged use of ByLock. The detentions came after the Bayburt Chief Prosecutor’s Office issued detention warrants for 10 people.

A non-commissioned officer in Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (KKTC) was also detained for his alleged links to the movement on Thursday as part of a probe conducted by the Düzce Chief Prosecutor’s Office.

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 Turkish autocratic President Recep Tayyip 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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