200 suspected military coup plotters on trial in Turkey

Turkish Gendarmerie escort defendants Akin Ozturk (C) and others involved in last July’s attempted coup in Turkey as they leave the prison where they are being held, ahead of their trial in Ankara, Turkey on May 22, 2017. (Murat Kula - Anadolu Agency)

Turkey put on trial 200 suspects on Monday including senior military officers accused of plotting and orchestrating last year’s failed coup, in a court case where prosecutors are calling for life sentences.

The defendants, among them President Tayyip Erdogan’s aide-de-camp, the former head of Turkey’s air force, and dozens of generals, colonels and majors, were paraded on their way to court past dozens of protesters who demanded the death penalty and threw nooses toward them.

Around 1,500 security personnel were deployed for security at the trial, state-run Anadolu news agency reported, which was held in a purpose-built courthouse in Sincan on the outskirts of the Turkish capital.

Erdogan blames Fetullah Gulen, a US-based cleric and a former ally, and his global network for orchestrating the coup, a charge Gulen denies. Turkish authorities have arrested nearly 50,000 people over alleged links with the preacher.

From a total of 221 defendants, more than 200 are from the military and more than half of those were officers who held ranks from captains up to generals. All but 12 of the suspects, who are still at large, appeared in court. Gulen, who is among the defendants, is among those being tried in absentia.

Hearings at the trial, one of the largest of several coup-related trials taking place across Turkey, are expected to last until June 16.

Citing the coup attempt as a grave threat to the state, Turkish authorities have also sacked or suspended around 150,000 civil servants, teachers, judges, prosecutors, police and soldiers and have shut down around 150 media outlets.

(Reuters)