Turkey’s new marginalised minority
According to official Turkish figures, the number of people dismissed from their jobs by emergency decrees since the failed 2016 failed coup attempt, is 125,678. If we include those who lost their jobs in private sector as a result of government’s decisions, the number rises to 131,922.
Losing their jobs is not the final punishment for victims of the decrees. Seen as domestic enemies, they are not allowed to work even for private companies. They are not also allowed to have passports. Many of them are accused of belonging to the Gülen movement, an Islamist group formerly allied to the ruling party.
The victims can be identified as Turkey’s new post-modern minority, and being so, they are the most recent examples of domestic enemies. Read the full article
Latest Erdoğan decree moves Turkey toward institutional collapse
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The decree expanded the role of the Ministry of Treasury and Finance, which is headed by his son-in-law Berat Albayrak, and gave Albayrak the power to directly appoint the chief inspector and other inspectors, without any examination from the age-old inspection boards.
But the most striking arrangement in the new decree may be that it gave the Treasury the authority to purchase stakes in international and domestic businesses to be chosen by Erdoğan.
Turkey's Sovereign Wealth Fund (TVF), of which Erdoğan is the board chairman and Albayrak the deputy chairman, already has the authority to take stakes and buy shares. Thus, granting a similar authority to the Treasury and to Erdoğan has raised questions.
On the one hand, the state's movable-immovable assets are sold to the Treasury to provide revenue. On the other, the new regulation envisages the Treasury shouldering financial responsibility for certain domestic and foreign firms. One wonders which companies will be saved, whose debts Turkey’s Treasury will be willing to take on, and whether any bankrupt companies will be rescued.
Earlier this month, TVF sold powerful Turkish businessman and Erdoğan friend Yıldırım Demirören the right to operate, for 10 years, the National Lottery, one of the most profitable public institutions within TVF. The decisions of TVF, which was established by the ruling party following the 2016 coup attempt, are not subject to the audit of the Court of Accounts or the parliament, and tenders issued by the TVF are exempt from procurement law.
Thus, while TVF, which controls billions of dollars in public assets, can be used and managed by Erdoğan in an uncontrolled way, the purpose behind giving the Treasury the authority of being a shareholder, to domestic and foreign companies is unclear.
Informed observers argue that companies, groups and holdings close to the government will be rescued, and the state will partner with these firms by transferring resources from the Treasury.
The Ministry of Treasury and Finance made a statement on these allegations, arguing that the regulation was not intended to save bankrupt companies, but to harmonise the new presidential system with an older decree, Law nunmber 233, dealing with public institutions and their assets.
Law no. 233 was issued by the Motherland Party (ANAP) in 1984, and more than 90 percent of the Public Economic Enterprises (PEEs) and State Economic Enterprises (SEEs) mentioned in it have since been privatised, sold, or shut down, including the cigarette and alcohol monopoly Tekel, Türk Telekom, Eti Bank, Sümerbank, Şekerbank, Denizbank, the Dairy Industry Association, dams, and power stations. Out of dozens of state-owned banks mentioned in the law, only Ziraat bank, Halkbank, Vakıfbank and Türk Eximbank remain.
There is now almost no public enterprise with which the president can instruct the Treasury to engage. Thus, it is highly likely that the new decree will be used to transfer capital and resources to companies close to the government or companies still to be established, either within Turkey or abroad.
A number of top academics, experienced bureaucrats, and former top financial officials, including former Central Bank Governor Durmuş Yılmaz and former Istanbul Stock Exchange chairman İbrahim Turan agree that the regulation signed by Erdoğan is aimed at saving or financing pro-government firms.
Crucially, the new law does not specify the amount of money that the Treasury can spend to buy shares, nor does it limit the percentage of shares. There are no restrictions.
On the other hand, the institutional structures of the Treasury and the Ministry of Finance are turned upside down with the new decree law:
The expression used in the decree in regards to this last point, “those deemed appropriate,” excludes merit and is open to considerable interpretation. Previously, one could be assigned to a Finance or Treasury Inspection Board only following several lengthy exams, along with interviews and at least three years of assistantship. With the new regulation, appointments can be made with a few words Minister Albayrak.
Albayrak now has the authority to appoint half of all inspectors on the boards. In other words, the new decree law paves the way for degeneration, allegiance and partisanship, appointing political cadres affiliated to the government in key strategic inspection committees.
This presidential decree has shaken the institutional structures of Turkey’s Finance and Treasury bodies, which date back centuries. Similar to what’s been done to the central bank, the fundamental units of Finance and Treasury have been eliminated and their boards, rules and institutional traditions have been hollowed out and reshaped in line with the political preferences of a single man.
Meanwhile, allowing the Treasury to engage with domestic and foreign businesses only by order of the president, and enabling ministerial appointments to the most critical inspection boards, will only accelerate institutional collapse.
Report on state of emergency moves released
Turkey on Aug. 29 released a report examining the declared in the aftermath of a 2016 coup bid.
The Inquiry Commission on the State of Emergency Measures said the moves inclustate of emergencyded dismissal from public service, cancellation of scholarships, annulment of the ranks of retired personnel and closure of some institutions. “Classification, registration and archiving of a total of 482,000 files, including personnel files transferred from their institutions, court files and former applications, have been completed,” the commission said in a statement.
A total of 131,922 measures were taken and 125,678 people were dismissed from public service. From Dec. 22, 2017 to Aug. 29, 2019 some 6,700 appeals were accepted while 77,600 of them were rejected. Twenty-eight cases are related to the re-opening of organizations, including television channels and foundations, that were shut down, it said. There are still 41,900 pending applications.
"Accordingly, two-thirds of the total appeals have been dealt with within a period of 20 months since the date of the beginning of the commission's decision-making process," it added. The applicants can track their appeals on the commission's website. The commission was established on May 22, 2017 after the defeated coup attempt in order to assess and conclude the applications.
25 June 2019:
Former military aide to Erdoğan retried in coup case
Yazıcı, Col. Cenk Bahadır Avcı who was the commander of a military air base and Hüseyin Yılmaz, a former lieutenant-colonel, appeared before a court in the southwestern province of Muğla yesterday.
The Supreme Court had earlier ruled for the retrial of three men, citing sentences handed down earlier were insufficient. Yazıcı was sentenced to 18 years for aiding and abetting a crime while the Supreme Court ruled that he was in fact "the main culprit" in the case.
Prosecutors say all three defendants had key roles in the assassination attempt during the July 15, 2016 coup attempt by military infiltrators of the Gülenist Terror Group. President Erdoğan was on vacation in Muğla's Marmaris town at the time of the coup attempt. A group of pro-coup troops stormed the hotel he was staying in with his family, shortly before Erdoğan, upon hearing a coup was underway, left the premises. Two police officers guarding the hotel were killed by putschists. Yazıcı, who was not in the Marmaris at the time of the attempt, was accused of trying to locate where the president was with the purpose of helping other putschists to kill him.
The putschists' attempt to raid the hotel was foiled and 36 troops involved in the assassination bid fled to the countryside. Thirty-five of them were captured within days while Burkay Karatepe, a captain, remains at large. The assassination team, including former general Gökhan Şahin Sönmezateş who is accused of masterminding the assassination plot, were sentenced to aggravated life sentences. Ali Yazıcı was already sentenced to aggravated life imprisonment in another coup attempt trial in the capital Ankara last week while Hüseyin Yılmaz is jailed, awaiting the verdict in another coup-related trial in Ankara.
Strong resistance including those slain by coup plotters thwarted the coup attempt. Erdoğan, who secretly flew to Istanbul from Marmaris during the coup attempt, is credited with mobilizing the nation to stand against the putschists.
The Supreme Court has upheld aggravated life sentences for the team of assassins but said in its ruling that although Yazıcı was not at the crime scene, he was involved in planning the assassination and organizing the military officers tasked with the killing attempt, as well as finding the exact location of the president on July 15, 2016. On that day, Yazıcı traveled from the capital Ankara to a military base in İzmir where the team of assassins left for the attempt on Erdoğan's life.
74 sentenced to life in FETÖ coup attempt trial
A court in the Turkish capital handed down life sentences yesterday to 74 former military officers who commanded the military helicopters that killed civilians and bombed strategic locations in the terrorist group FETÖ's 2016 coup attempt
A trial of helicopter pilots and their commanders who were involved in brutal attacks during the 2016 coup attempt, ended yesterday in the capital Ankara. A total 56 defendants were sentenced to aggravated life imprisonment, while another 18 defendants were handed down life sentences for their involvement in the coup attempt perpetrated by military infiltrators of the Gülenist Terror Group (FETÖ).
Those tried in yesterday's trial were accused of killing 28 civilians and inflicting injuries on 276 others due to shots fired from military helicopters.
Defendants had either personally commanded the helicopters or ordered them to attack places that putschists viewed critical to seizing power. Helicopters fired at the headquarters of the National Intelligence Directorate as well as the Office of Chief of General Staff, the army's main headquarters during the 2016 coup attempt. They dropped bombs and fired assault rifles on civilians who filled the streets around those buildings in a peaceful bid to stop the coup attempt.
Uğur Kapan, a colonel and pilot of the helicopter that brought Hulusi Akar to Çankaya Manor after his abductors released him from Akıncı, was among the defendants sentenced in yesterday's hearing. The 17th High Criminal Court handed down 29 instances of aggravated life imprisonment for Kapan, along with a total of 3,932 years in prison for Kapan. Forty-five defendants in the case were handed down prison terms ranging between six years and three months to 18 years.
Sadullah Abra, a major and helicopter pilot, was among those with the heaviest sentences. He was handed down 25 instances of aggravated life imprisonment, apart from 3,536 years. He piloted a Cobra helicopter on the night of July 15, 2016, and was the pilot who asked the fellow members of his unit to shoot at police trying to stop the putschists. "Fire at anything with a blue lamp on it, shoot the police!" Abra could be heard saying over the radio to fellow helicopter pilots. Abra's wife was also convicted in a separate trial regarding FETÖ.
Col. Oğuz Yalçın and noncommissioned officer İlhan Ocakçıoğlu were sentenced to multiple instances of aggravated life imprisonment for coordinating between superior putschist officers and helicopter pilots as personnel stationed at a air traffic control tower. The indictment against both men quote their radio talk where they can be heard giving coordinates to pilots on targets, from the presidential complex to crowds gathered on streets against putschists.
The trial was among 289 opened following the 2016 coup attempt and was one of about three dozens not concluded until yesterday.
Since the foiled coup attempt, hundreds of military officers and civilians who took part in the bid have been brought to justice. Tens of thousands of people linked to FETÖ were also detained or arrested in the aftermath of the attempt. In the concluded trials, more than 1,950 defendants, ranging from generals to low-ranking officers were sentenced to life and more than 3,100 defendants received varying prison terms for their role in the coup attempt.
The attempt in 2016 came one month before a planned purge of suspected FETÖ infiltrators in the military and was the bloodiest attempt to overthrow the government by the terrorist group, which used its infiltrators in the police and judiciary in 2013 in an attempt to seize power in two separate coup bids.
After the coup attempt was quelled thanks to strong public resistance, more than 100,000 new investigations were opened into the attempt and FETÖ's role in the putsch. Those handed down aggravated life sentences, the heaviest sentence in Turkey after the abolition of the death penalty years ago, have little chance of eligibility for an early release from prison. Among those sentenced to aggravated life imprisonment are 58 generals, 651 officers, 137 noncommissioned officers and four police officers. Fifteen generals, mostly those who were stationed in smaller cities where the coup had less impact, were sentenced to life imprisonment, along with 325 officers and 99 noncommissioned officers.
Life sentences demanded for key FETÖ members in coup case
A public prosecutor presented his deliberations on a case concerning the failed July 15, 2016 coup that currently has 43 accused suspects, including 28 detainees and Air Force Academy officers among them. The deliberation asks for the Gülenist Terror Group's (FETÖ) Turkish Armed Forces (TSK) imam (a term used to describe the group's handlers for its infiltrators) Kemal Batmaz to be sentenced to life.
Batmaz's fingerprints were found in a book in the house of Adil Öksüz, a key figure from FETÖ in the coup attempt, and he was captured at the Akıncı Air Base in Ankara. Prosecutors are also seeking a sentence of up to 56 years and three months for former regiment commander Staff Col. Hüseyin Ergezen who was in contact with Kemal Batmaz via payphone, as well as a life sentence. Ergezen is accused of "violation of the Constitution," "membership in an armed terrorist organization," "prevention of the right to access public services" and "hijacking of means of transport."
These two cases were asked to be separated from the other coup cases, which are being judged for "violation of the Constitution" and "membership in an armed terrorist organization" and where some accused are looking to serve life sentences while others have gotten up to 15 years in prison.
The public prosecutor asked for life sentences for 41 out of the 43 accused in the case concerning the failed coup by members of FETÖ.
The prosecutor presented his deliberation at the Istanbul 37th High Criminal Court.
The deliberation stated that Ergezen instructed Air Force Academy students to work out at 6:30 am on the day of the coup attempt. It's been noted that Ergezen canceled the night workout set to take place at 5:30 p.m.
The deliberation states that Ergezen, at 6 p.m. on the day of the coup attempt, instructed some of his officers and students to get on multiple busses headed to Istanbul from Yalova as reinforcements; they also were fully equipped.
On July 15, 2016, 251 civilians were killed and more than 2,000 others were injured during the coup attempt by FETÖ terrorists.
'They buried the cameras'
Former Maj. Gen. Fethi Alpay, who was sentenced to 88 life sentences after the coup attempt, informed Sgt. Burhan Torlak and Sgt. Yavuz Baguç to remove the cameras in and around the headquarters and bury them outside the school. In accordance with the evidence and witness statements collected on Ergezen, according to the pseudo-assignment list prepared by the pro-coup soldiers, Ergezen was listed as the "Istanbul TRT executive" and stated that he participated in coordination meetings in Istanbul and Yalova.
The deliberation encapsulates the payphone connections established in 2013 between Batmaz and Ergezen in the house of FETÖ's "TSK imam" Adil Öksüz, who is still on the run. Ergezen's finger prints were also found in Adil Öksüz's house, it also states that Öksüz's phone was used many times.
Justice prevails as coup plotters pay for their deeds
Victim of multiple coups, this time around Turkey did not wait too long to punish the perpetrators of the 2016 coup attempt, that was thwarted by an unprecedented public resistance. Some 289 lawsuits were filed against the perpetrators responsible for the killing of 251 people. Since the first trials in late 2016, 265 of them have been concluded so far.
A total of 3,664 defendants were handed down prison terms. Among them, 2,260 defendants were sentenced to life. Around 1,206 among those with life sentences were sentenced to aggravated life imprisonment which means they won't be eligible for parole any time soon. Lesser prison terms were handed down to other defendants, mostly to those from lower military ranks, while 2,609 defendants were acquitted. The acquitted defendants include military school cadets who were forced by their putschist superiors to join the coup attempt.
The first verdict in the coup trials came from the eastern city of Erzurum. A colonel appointed as "commander" for Erzurum by putschists and a major were sentenced to aggravated life imprisonment in the trial concluded in January 2017.
A key trial was related to the killing of Ömer Halisdemir, a noncommissioned officer who paved the way for the downfall of coup plotters by killing one of their ringleaders. Some 18 putschist officers, who sprayed Halisdemir with bullets after he shot putschist Gen. Semih Terzi dead on July 15, 2016, were sentenced to aggravated life imprisonment in a hearing last April.
Another important trial to wrap up was the "umbrella" trial on the takeover of army headquarters during the coup attempt. Called "umbrella" as it included top pro-coup military brass and soldiers from all across Turkey involved in the attempt, the trial with 224 defendants ended on June 20. Some 133 defendants were sentenced to aggravated life imprisonment while 16 others were sentenced to life. Others received more lenient prison terms while the court in Ankara ordered a separate trial for 13 fugitive defendants, including Gülenist Terror Group (FETÖ) leader Fetullah Gülen. Among those sentenced is Akın Öztürk, former Air Force commander who was accused of running the putschists' Peace At Home Council.
In Istanbul, 38 out of 41 coup trials were concluded, including the main trial of the putschists, who staged the Istanbul leg of the attempt. Three generals were sentenced to an aggravated life sentence in that trial which concluded in April 2018. In another trial, 72 putschist officers received aggravated life sentences for the brutal killing of 34 people who confronted the putschists on Bosporus Bridge during the coup attempt. The bridge was renamed the July 15 Martyrs' Bridge after the massacre.
Elsewhere, a court in the southwestern city of Muğla handed down multiple life sentences for 31 defendants involved in an assassination attempt on President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, who was on vacation in Muğla when the coup plotters dispatched a team of assassins to murder him.
FETÖ putschists, civilians sentenced in coup attempt trial
In the northwestern city of Kocaeli, a former admiral was sentenced to aggravated life imprisonment, while 51 civilian members of the terrorist group got prison terms of up to 10 years in another case regarding the group's network in the capital Ankara. Thirty-five defendants were on trial in Kocaeli where the headquarters of the army's naval forces and a critical maritime air base are located. Defendants, mostly military officers, were accused of joining the coup attempt, which killed 251 people and injured 2,200 others, on July 15, 2016. Only six were incarcerated, while others were released with judicial control earlier or remain at large.
The trial was separated from a larger trial about navy personnel's involvement in the attempt and started last year. It covers the actions of defendants at the naval command, including a putschist takeover of the headquarters and ordering warships to sea in an apparent attempt to subdue any resistance to the coup in port cities and helping putschists escape in case of failure. Fetullah Gülen, the fugitive leader of FETÖ, and Tezcan Kızılelma, the admiral who was commander of the Maritime Air Base in Kocaeli, were among the key defendants in the case.
Kızılelma had already been convicted and sentenced to 15 years in a trial concerning the assassination attempt targeting President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan on the night of the coup attempt that ended with the killing of two police officers by putschists. He was accused of ordering a base commander in the southern city of Antalya to green light refueling for a helicopter carrying would-be assassins of Erdoğan. His name was in a martial law directive of the putschists sent to military bases across Turkey to join the coup attempt.
The court ruled for aggravated life imprisonment for Kızılelma on charges of violation of the constitutional order in reference to the coup attempt. Zabit Kişi and Halil İbrahim Temel, two civilians in the case who were accused of serving as handlers for FETÖ military infiltrators, were sentenced to 13 years and six months in prison in the same case. Kişi was arrested in Kazakhstan two years ago and was sent to Turkey.
Halit Çokan, the lawyer who represented the Turkish Presidency as the plaintiff in the trial, said they respected the ruling, but there were "some instances that they did not agree" and would take some convictions to an appeals court for more severe prison terms for defendants. "In our opinion, the court released some defendants directly involved in the coup attempt. Still, the verdict today was very important for our democracy," he told reporters outside the courthouse Friday.
In the capital Ankara, a court handed down prison terms to 51 defendants who were accused of being a part of the terrorist group's network in the capital's Çubuk district. Prison terms between one year and 10 years were handed down to the defendants. Onur Torgaylı, FETÖ's "leader" for the district, received 10 years and six months in prison, while the court ordered a separate trial for eight fugitive defendants in the case and the seizure of assets belonging to fugitives. Nine defendants were sentenced to one year in prison but were released as they had collaborated with investigators earlier and helped uncover the terrorist group's hidden network. Twenty-two others were acquitted.
The terrorist group is known for its widespread infiltration of the army, law enforcement, judiciary and bureaucracy. It first attempted to overthrow the government in 2013 with its infiltrators in the judiciary and the Turkish National Police. It failed, and the group faced increased scrutiny. When news broke that the military was preparing to launch a mass purge of FETÖ-linked officers in August 2016, the group moved to prevent it with the coup attempt. Strong public resistance ultimately stopped the coup, and most of those involved in the coup attempt were arrested.
FETÖ's 2016 coup bid: Trial closes chapter in history of coups
The main trial concerning the July 15, 2016 coup attempt by military infiltrators of the Gülenist Terror Group (FETÖ) concluded Thursday with aggravated life sentences for 127 defendants and life sentences for 23 others.
It has been more than two years since over 200 defendants, from generals to colonels who switched their military uniforms to casual suits, were brought to a massive courtroom in the capital Ankara for the "çatı" (umbrella) trial. Reviewing thousands of pages of indictments, security camera footage, images and the accounts of witness after witness, the court handed down prison terms to 211 defendants and ordered a separate trial for 13 defendants at large. The verdict in this most significant trial over the putsch bid that killed 251 people is the harshest and probably most tangible of coup trials in a country accustomed to them since 1960.
The trial is not the largest in terms of the number of defendants, 224 in total, but was being closely watched as it focuses on leaders of the putschists, including former Air Force Commander Akın Öztürk, who was accused of leading the putschists' "Peace At Home Council." Öztürk was among 18 defendants who were handed down 141 instances of aggravated life sentences, for 139 murders their actions directly caused, as well as for "violating constitutional order" and serving FETÖ. The terrorist group is known for its widespread infiltration of the army, law enforcement, the judiciary and bureaucracy. It first attempted to overthrow the government in 2013 with its infiltrators in the judiciary and the Turkish National Police. It failed, and the group faced increased scrutiny.
When news broke that the military was preparing to launch a mass purge of FETÖ-linked officers in August 2016, the group moved to prevent it with the coup attempt.
Strong public resistance ultimately stopped the coup, and most of those involved in the coup attempt were arrested. FETÖ's leader Fetullah Gülen, however, and 12 others, mostly civilian members of the terrorist group, remain at large. Birol Kurubaş, an "imam" or handler for FETÖ's military infiltrators, was among the few civilians sentenced in Thursday's trial.
Tens of thousands of people were detained or arrested following the coup attempt, and a barrage of trials were launched against FETÖ, both for its role in the attempt and other crimes.
No chance for parole
The 17th High Criminal Court handed down aggravated life imprisonment varying from one instance to 141 instances for 127 defendants while 23 others were sentenced to life. Three defendants were sentenced to 20 years, while 24 others were handed down prison terms up to 15 years. Thirty-five others were acquitted.
Aggravated prison term means the defendants will not be eligible for parole or early release and multiple instances of the heavy sentence literally mean they will spend the rest of their lives in prison.
Both the courtroom and its courtyard were packed with people who flocked to the Sincan Prison Complex, home to both a massive prison for hundreds of coup attempt suspects and convicts and a spacious courtroom specifically built for coup trials. Families of those killed by putschists, people injured in attacks by coup suspects, lawmakers from the ruling Justice and Development (AK) Party and activists arrived early Thursday at the courtroom. Relatives of some victims tried to enter the courthouse but police, which took strict security measures in the complex, did not allow them to do so.
All defendants except fugitives had wrapped up their defenses in earlier hearings in two years of the trial that started in May 2017, and Chief Judge Oğuz Dik started reading the verdict before noon for all defendants.
The court charged 127 defendants with violation of the constitutional order, attempting to assassinate the president, murder, attempted murder and restricting freedoms, while others were sentenced to more lenient prison term for aiding the coup plotters and membership in a terrorist organization, FETÖ. Those who were acquitted were mostly low-ranking officers, including the trial's only female defendant, Kübra Yavuz, a first lieutenant. Some defendants were also technically acquitted in this case as they were already sentenced to multiple instances of aggravated life sentences in other trials related to the coup attempt.
The trial was originally known in Turkish as the "Genelkurmay Çatı" trial. Genelkurmay here means Office of the Chief of General Staff, the army's headquarters in the capital Ankara. It was there the coup attempt first started. Just hours before the coup attempt started unfolding all across Turkey, top military brass were in a meeting in the office to evaluate a report provided by the National Intelligence Agency. The office, a vast building in downtown Ankara, however, also had FETÖ's infiltrators, including those serving closest to then Chief of General Staff Gen. Hulusi Akar, such as his aide Levent Türkkan. Putschists, who originally planned to stage the coup later at night or in the early hours of July 16, 2016, decided to move at once upon hearing the meeting. Around 10:00 p.m., Special Forces soldiers working for putschists stormed the office, subduing any officers opposing them. Hulusi Akar was among the high-ranking officers of the army who were held hostage by putschists inside the army headquarters before they were taken to an air base where they would be held for hours by putschists. Hearing the news of a coup attempt, a crowd of civilians gathered outside army headquarters in an unprecedented bid to confront the putschists, and several were killed when putschists opened fire on crowds. Some civilians managed to enter the heavily guarded headquarters but were killed inside by putschists who only surrendered when police officers and anti-coup military forces surrounded the building. Eleven civilians confronting the putschists were killed outside the Office of Chief of General Staff. Bülent Aydın, an officer who was serving as bodyguard of Land Forces commander Salih Zeki Çolak at the time of the coup attempt, was killed by putschists just outside the main entrance of the Office when he tried to resist putschists' attempt to abduct Çolak.
Prosecutors prepared a 2,581-page indictment against defendants on March 3, 2017. Key defendants in the trial are Akın Öztürk and generals İlhan Talu, Mehmet Dişli, Mehmet Partigöç, Sinan Sürer, colonels Cemil Turhan, Doğan Öztürk, Orhan Yıkılkan, Osman Kardal and Ramazan Gözel. Apart from Öztürk, all were inside army headquarters until the early hours of July 16, overseeing the coup attempt.
A mammoth process
The trial was a meticulous procedure and a mammoth process for the sheer number of defendants and examination of what transpired at the army headquarters during the coup attempt. It took 236 hearings over two years before the conclusion. Seven clerks worked to decipher about 2,500 hours of digital evidence. The court heard 235 eyewitnesses, from civilians to Hulusi Akar, throughout the trial where 2,386 people, from families of those slain by putschists to President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan were plaintiffs.
It is also viewed as the first comprehensive coup attempt trial to wrap up, while another trial where more than 400 defendants are being tried for incidents at Akıncı Air Base, the command center of putschists in Ankara, is still underway. It also remains the only significant trial of a string of coups that haunted Turkey since 1960, to be concluded with tangible sentences for all those involved. Perpetrators of the 1960 coup got away unpunished, while two generals who led the 1980 coup died shortly after they were sentenced to life. The majority of military officers involved in the 1997 coup were handed down prison terms, but they were not jailed while an appeals process is still underway.
Key defendants in the trial
Akın Öztürk, the former chief of the Turkish Air Forces and former member of the Supreme Military Council, was responsible for the planned coup's military branch. Öztürk was at Akıncı Air Base during the night of the coup attempt while then Chief of General Staff Gen. Hulusi Akar was being held hostage at the base. Öztürk claimed he was in Akıncı to convince putschists to end the attempt. Öztürk's son-in-law, Hakan Karakuş, a fighter jet pilot, has also been jailed for joining the coup attempt with airstrikes targeting civilians.
Former Brig. Gen. Mehmet Partigöç, who served as head of the General Staff Personal, Planning and Administration Department, was among the leading putschists. It was his orders to military units across Turkey that alerted pro-coup troops everywhere that the coup was underway and urged them to join the attempt. The investigation of Partigöç found that he actively took part in meetings between July 6 and July 9 led by Adil Öksüz, a senior, fugitive FETÖ member accused of planning the coup attempt on behalf of Fetullah Gülen.
Mehmet Dişli is the pro-coup general who tried to convince Chief of General Staff Hulusi Akar to join the putschists and ordered his abduction when the latter refused.
The general, who was the head of the strategy department at army headquarters before the coup attempt, is accused of orchestrating the abduction of Hulusi Akar, who was released hours later when the coup bid was quelled. "Sir, the operation began. We will round up everyone. Brigades and battalions are mobilized. You will see this soon," he told Akar.
Although he was not sentenced in Thursday's trial, Fetullah Gülen is the prime suspect in all of the coup attempt trials. The former preacher gained a cult following over decades with his movement disguised as a religious organization.
Gülen is accused of moving to seize power when the state started to crack down against his followers in the aftermath of the foiled coup attempts in 2013. Gülen currently resides in Pennsylvania in the United States.
Turkey has repeatedly sought his extradition.
28 trials on coup attempt left, hundreds convicted
A total of 261 trials out of 289 over the 2016 coup attempt have concluded since the first coup trials started in late 2016. Twenty-eight trials are expected to wrap up by the end of this year.
Figures compiled by Anadolu Agency (AA) show 3,239 defendants were convicted and jailed. Among them were 1,053 who were sentenced to aggravated life imprisonment and 978 who were sentenced to life. Another 1,208 defendants were handed down prison terms between one to 20 years in trials across the country in three years. After a short pause for a holiday break, Turkish courts are resuming the trials of 1,626 defendants linked to the Gülenist Terror Group (FETÖ) this month. New hearings are being held in 26 trials in nine cities on FETÖ and its 2016 coup attempt. Nine trials are about the coup attempt, while the rest are related to other crimes the group was involved in. A total of 1,002 defendants will be tried in hearings related to the putsch bid. A smaller group of defendants, including some military school cadets who were unknowingly pushed into the coup by their superiors, were acquitted in the trials.
Today, a verdict is expected to be announced in the trial over putschists' takeover of the Naval Command in Kocaeli, a northwestern city. Thirty-five defendants are being tried and six of them were jailed while others were released with judiciary control earlier or remain at large. Among those jailed before the trial are former admiral Tezcan Kızılelma who was convicted in a case involving putschists' attempt to assassinate President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan during the putsch bid. Kızılelma and five others face aggravated life imprisonment.
More often than not, defendants cling to outright denial despite prosecutors supplying the courts with evidence such as security camera footage of the putschists firing on anti-coup civilians and accounts of eyewitnesses. Legal experts say that defendants are trying to prolong the trials and take their cases to international courts where they believe they have a chance of acquittal.
Reactions to verdict: Minister hails 'deserved' punishment
Apart from disapproval over acquittals, the verdict was widely welcomed by the public. Social media users hailed it, as "a fitting end for traitors," while Justice Minister Abdülhamid Gül said it has been a fair trial in line with international and local regulations and laws.
Gül told reporters after the verdict was announced that the ruling was "what defendants deserved under Turkish laws." "The constitution they tried to remove was the basis for their trial," Gül said.
"It is a historical verdict. It is a day when putschists are tried and accounted for what they have attempted to do to democracy and national sovereignty in the framework of laws. Turkey is a country that holds putschists to account. No one will be able to remove democracy and the national will; no one will hurt the soul of our martyrs," Gül said. He pointed out that the independent judiciary issued a ruling based on evidence and that it was up to the judiciary to decide who'd be convicted and who'd be acquitted. "As a member of the Turkish nation, I am personally pleased with the verdict," Gül said.
Hüseyin Aydın, the lawyer who represented the plaintiff, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, in the trial said the verdict "largely met our expectations," adding that he "thought differently than the judges on acquittals of some defendants." Aydın said there would be an appeal process and a detailed ruling would be announced in the coming days. "We will take this matter to the appeals court after the detailed ruling is issued," he said, referring to acquittals. Tarık Şebik, who heads an association of anti-coup activists whose members rallied outside the courthouse during Thursday's trial, said they would file a lawsuit for harsher sentences for some defendants who got away with lenient prison terms. He said they closely followed the hearings and were satisfied with the process. "Defendants tested the patience of the families of victims with hours of uninterrupted testimonies. The judiciary was really meticulous in every aspect and rather than issuing a collective punishment, it shed light on every shred of evidence implicating or acquitting the defendants," he said.
Aggravated life sentences for key figures in grand trial of FETÖ coup attempt
The Fourth High Criminal Court handed 17 defendants of the main coup attempt trial, including former Air Force Commander Gen. Akın Öztürk who led the so-called "Peace at Home Council" that coordinated putschist soldiers across Turkey in the July 15, 2016 coup attempt, 141 aggravated life sentences.
Former Col. Ali Yazıcı, who was President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan's military aide, and former Lt. Col. Levent Türkkan, aide to then-Chief of Staff Gen. Hulusi Akar who was kidnapped by putchists, also received an aggravated life sentence.
The defendants were accused of taking over the military's headquarters, the Office of the Chief of General Staff, violating the constitution, attempting to overthrow the government and parliament, attempting to assassinate the president and killing 251 people during the coup attempt by military infiltrators of the Gülenist Terror Group (FETÖ).
Out of 224 defendants, 176 were arrested pending trial, 35 were released pending trial while 13 including FETÖ leader Fetullah Gülen, who resides in U.S. state of Pennsylvania, were on the run.
The trial started on May 22, 2017, in a high-security prison complex in Ankara's Sincan district which includes a courtroom specifically set up for coup attempt suspects.
The FETÖ used its military infiltrators to overthrow the government in the summer of 2016. The coup attempt preceded a planned move to weed out FETÖ members in the military.
Suspects in Akıncı Air Base west of Ankara, which served as the main headquarters of putchists, and other military bases were captured when the coup bid was foiled thanks to a strong and unprecedented public resistance.
Nearly 290 coup-linked court cases have been launched, 261 of which ended with 3,239 defendants convicted, according to Justice Ministry figures.
2 June 2019:
No releases in major trial on FETÖ coup bid
A total of 475 defendants are being tried in the Akıncı trial, named after the air base in Ankara which was used as a command center for the putsch bid on July 15, 2016. Most defendants rejected their roles in the coup attempt that killed 251 people across Turkey, despite security camera footage showing them taking part in the coup and accounts of eyewitnesses.
The Akıncı trial has one of the highest number of defendants on a countrywide basis. Nearly 300 other trials on the coup attempt are expected to draw to a close by the end of this year.
The Gülenist Terror Group (FETÖ) is accused of using its military infiltrators to overthrow the government in the summer of 2016. The coup attempt preceded a planned move to weed out FETÖ members in the military. Suspects in Akıncı and other trials were captured when the coup bid was foiled thanks to a strong and unprecedented public resistance.
Seven people in the case including FETÖ leader Fetullah Gülen and Adil Öksüz, a civilian accused of planning the coup attempt upon Gülen's orders, remain at large. Öksüz, who was caught in Akıncı hours after the coup was quelled, disappeared after he was released in a controversial ruling by a local court immediately after the coup bid. Meanwhile, Gülen refuses to return to Turkey from Pennsylvania where he has been living for years.
The majority of defendants are soldiers, including former Air Force Cmdr. Gen. Akın Öztürk. Öztürk is accused of heading the "Peace At Home Council" which comprised of pro-coup soldiers and was captured at Akıncı during the coup bid. He claimed that he was simply visiting the Akıncı base where he was caught to see his grandchildren who stay in military lodgings there.
His son-in-law, Hakan Karakuş, is among the military officers who joined the coup attempt and is accused of commanding a fighter jet that carried out airstrikes against the anti-coup crowds.
A large number of people, from President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan to army generals targeted by the putschists, lawmakers and families of civilians killed by the coup plotters are among the plaintiffs in the Akıncı trial.
An indictment on what happened at Akıncı Air Base during the July 15 coup attempt claims Gülen would have settled in a building at the base if the coup had succeeded. It names Öksüz and Kemal Batmaz, another civilian who was caught in Akıncı during the coup attempt, as two point men for Gülen, who executed the coup attempt with the aid of Öztürk. The indictment, accompanied with photos of Akıncı Air Base and images from security cameras showing those involved in the coup, claims Gülen was "number one" in the coup attempt, and Öksüz and Batmaz were his accomplices.
The 4,658-page indictment alleges 10 civilians were involved in the coup attempt. Prosecutors say 11 F-16 jets coordinated by putschists in Akıncı, dropped bombs on several locations, while two aircraft tried to scare people by creating sonic booms in Istanbul. Two other fighter jets were used to track down Erdoğan's plane as he was brought out of trouble's way when an elite team of assassins landed near the hotel where he was staying in southwestern Turkey.
30 March 2019:
Apart from the coup trials, thousands have been convicted of being members of or leading a terrorist group after they were rounded up over their alleged ties to the Gulen movement. The Turkish government accuses the Gulen movement of being behind the July 15, 2016 failed coup. The latter denies involvement.
A total of 511,000 people were detained over their suspected ties to the Gulen movement since the July 15, 2016 failed coup, Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu said on March 11, 2019.