Turkey Begins Mass Trial Of Suspected Coup Plotters

Suspected Coup plotters being led to their trial in Ankara, Turkey. Photo Credit RFE/RL
Suspected Coup plotters being led to their trial in Ankara, Turkey. Photo Credit RFE/RL

Turkey has commenced a mass trial for the 221 high-ranking military officers who were alleged to have planned to oust President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in a coup d’etat in July 2016.

Ex-air force commander Akin Ozturk was the first in a long line of accused persons that were marched past a hostile crowd near Ankara.

There have been calls for the death sentences to be handed to the coup plotters, but Turkish law does not allow that.

Meanwhile, in a recent crackdown on Sunday, the Turkish police arrested two teachers, Nuriye Gulmen and Semih Ozakca, who had embarked on hunger strike to protest their dismissal from their jobs.

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They are among more than 100,000 public servants sacked after the botched July 2016 military coup.

The pair have been on hunger strike for 75 days, and their lawyer said that, despite the police raid on Sunday, they had both vowed to “never give up”.

“We want our jobs back! We have not surrendered and will not!” Gulmen tweeted.

President Erdogan’s purge of state institutions has meant mass dismissals in the judiciary, police, universities and schools.

The mass trial at a prison complex near Ankara is the most high-profile prosecution of alleged plotters so far.

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The number one suspect – the Muslim cleric Fethullah Gulen – remains in the United States and denies involvement.

The charges include murdering 250 civilians during the 15 July coup attempt, after which President Erdogan imposed a state of emergency.

Mehmet Yaman, one of the angry onlookers, told newsmen: “I am here to settle the score with terrorists, I am here to show that I stand by my people, my flag and my religion.

“I am here to show the terrorists that we will stand firm. I want them sentenced to death in a fair trial, I want the traitors of this country to be punished.”

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Erdogan founded the Islamist-rooted AK Party in 2001 and on Sunday he was elected AKP leader, further entrenching his dominance of Turkish politics.

There was no rival candidate at the AKP congress.Last month, Turks narrowly approved constitutional changes giving the president far-reaching powers, including the right to lead a political party.

After winning the April referendum, Erdogan said Turkey could now hold a referendum on bringing back the death penalty – a move that would end Turkey’s bid to join the EU.