Al­most 500 sus­pects on trial in Turkey’s big­gest coup case

Fac­ing charges of con­spir­ing to oust the govt

Kuwait Times - - INTERNATIONAL -

Nearly 500 peo­ple ap­peared in court yes­ter­day in the big­gest trial yet of sus­pects from Turkey’s failed coup, fac­ing charges of con­spir­ing to oust the gov­ern­ment from an air base seen as the plot­ters’ hub. Forty-one of those held were marched into the court out­side Ankara one-by-one in a long line in front of tele­vi­sion cam­eras and the pub­lic, with each sus­pect held by two mem­bers of the Turk­ish gen­darmerie and flanked by an armed sol­dier.

Peo­ple chanted “we want the death penalty!” and some threw nooses to­wards the sus­pects. The death penalty has been abol­ished in Turkey since 2004. There were also chants of “mar­tyrs don’t die, the na­tion won’t be di­vided”. Some peo­ple threw water bot­tles, an AFP re­porter said. Nazan Ay­top, who came to court to make sure the blood of the 249 vic­tims of the coup “was not given in vain” said she hoped the “ac­cused will be given the sen­tence they de­serve.”

A to­tal of 486 sus­pects have been in­dicted in the case and al­most all-a to­tal of 461 — are held in cus­tody while seven are still on the run and the re­main­der charged but not in jail. Dur­ing the tense open­ing hear­ing, vet­er­ans and rel­a­tives of those killed on the night of the coup bid booed the sus­pects’ lawyers, Do­gan news agency re­ported. Some lawyers hit ta­bles to protest the “phys­i­cal in­ter­ven­tion” by some of the vic­tims’ fam­i­lies as they walked past them, the agency said.

‘Or­der to bomb par­lia­ment’

The sus­pects are ac­cused of run­ning the coup bid from the Ak­inci air base north­west of the cap­i­tal, which the au­thor­i­ties re­gard as the head­quar­ters of the plot­ters where or­ders were sent out for fighter jets to bomb par­lia­ment. They are charged with crimes rang­ing from mur­der, vi­o­lat­ing the con­sti­tu­tion and at­tempt­ing to kill Pres­i­dent Re­cep Tayyip Er­do­gan. If con­victed, they face life im­pris­on­ment.

Among the main sus­pects named in the in­dict­ment but still on the run is US-based Mus­lim cleric Fethul­lah Gulen, who is ac­cused of or­der­ing the at­tempted July 15, 2016 putsch. Gulen, who is based in a se­cluded com­pound in the US state of Pennsylvania, strongly de­nies the charges. Those held in cus­tody in­clude for­mer air force chief Akin Oz­turk who, like sev­eral sus­pects, is also on trial in an­other case re­lated to the coup bid.

An­other chief sus­pect is the­ol­ogy lec­turer Adil Ok­suz, whom Turk­ish of­fi­cials ac­cuse of being the so-called “imam” of the plot by co­or­di­nat­ing the ac­tion on the ground in Turkey with Gulen. Busi­ness­man Ke­mal Bat­maz is mean­while ac­cused of as­sist­ing Ok­suz. Ok­suz was de­tained fol­low­ing the coup’s de­feat, but was sub­se­quently re­leased and is now on the run. Bat­maz is in cus­tody in Sin­can prison out­side Ankara.

Bat­maz led the line of sus­pects into court wear­ing a cream shirt with black trousers fol­lowed by Oz­turk wear­ing a grey shirt and black trousers. Chief of Staff General Hu­lusi Akar and other se­nior com­man­ders were held hostage at the base dur­ing the coup at­tempt be­fore they were freed on the morn­ing on July 16. The base was seen as the coup bid head­quar­ters where com­mands were given for the F-16 fighter jets to at­tack and fly them above the cap­i­tal. The Turk­ish par­lia­ment was bombed three times by F-16s.

The trial is tak­ing place in Turkey’s largest court­room estab­lished in­side a prison com­plex in Sin­can to hear coup-re­lated tri­als and has space for 1,558 peo­ple. The court­room has pre­vi­ously hosted mass tri­als re­lated to the coup bid in­clud­ing one which opened in Fe­bru­ary of 330 sus­pects ac­cused of mur­der or at­tempted mur­der.

And in May, 221 sus­pects were put on trial ac­cused of being the ring­leaders of the failed coup. The at­tempted coup left 249 peo­ple dead, the Turk­ish pres­i­dency says, not in­clud­ing 24 coup-plot­ters killed on the night. There was heavy se­cu­rity in­clud­ing 1,130 se­cu­rity per­son­nel in­side and out­side the court­room, ac­cord­ing to state-run news agency Anadolu, as well as snipers, ar­mored se­cu­rity ve­hi­cles and a drone. The trial is one of sev­eral held across Turkey judg­ing coup sus­pects, in the largest le­gal process in the coun­try’s mod­ern history. Over 50,000 peo­ple have been ar­rested over al­leged links to Gulen in a wide-scale crack­down un­der the state of emer­gency im­posed fol­low­ing the coup. —AFP

ANKARA: De­fen­dants Ke­mal Bat­maz (first row, C) and Akin Oz­turk (sec­ond row, C) and other de­fen­dants are ac­com­pa­nied by gen­darmerie as they ar­rive for their trial at Sin­can Pe­nal In­sti­tu­tion at the 4th Heavy Pe­nal Court. —AFP

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