A Turkish court on Thursday sentenced 24 people to life imprisonment in one of the biggest trials related to the failed coup against the Recep Tayyip Erdogan-led government in 2016, state media reported. Out of the 24 accused, 17 were given 141 aggravated life terms each for causing the deaths of 139 people, for “violating the constitution” and “attempting to assassinate the president”, AFP reported.
An aggravated life sentence means the convict has no chance of parole.
On July 16, 2016, a section of the country’s military had rebelled and tried to overthrow the government. They faced resistance from citizens as well as Army troops, and more than 150 people were killed in the violence.
As many as 40,000 people had been arrested and 1.2 lakh others dismissed or suspended from their posts as soldiers, police officers, teachers and public servants over suspected links with militant groups, between July 2016 and December 2017.
Former Air Force Chief Akin Ozturk and Mehmet Disli, brother of former ruling party politician Saban Disli, who is currently Turkey’s ambassador to the Netherlands, were among the 17 who were sentenced on Thursday.
Ahead of the verdict, families of those killed during the failed coup criticised the court for prohibiting entry. The trial had begun in May 2017 inside a prison in Sincan, which is said to be the country’s largest court.
Erdogan’s former military aide Ali Yazici, one of the ringleaders of the attempted coup, was also given a life term, Al Jazeera reported quoting state media.
Of the defendants, 176 are now under arrest, 35 have been tried in absentia, and 13 are still absconding. Exiled cleric Fetullah Gulen, who vehemently refutes claims of being involved, is now being tried in absentia as Turkey failed to get him extradited from the United States. On Thursday, the judge ordered the trial of 13 accused, including Gulen, to be separated from the that of the coup ringleaders.
In April, Erdogan said that 20,226 people in total have been found guilty in the case. He had said that over 31,000 people have been fired from the police, 15,000 from the military, and 4,000 from the judiciary after the failed coup, according to Al Jazeera.