WEDNESDAY – A Turkish court on Wednesday found 42 former soldiers guilty of trying to murder President Tayyip Erdogan during last year’s botched coup handing most of them life sentences in the highest profile case related to the case.
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Judge Emirsah Bastog read out guilty verdicts for 42 of the 47 defendants at the court in Mugla a place near the luxury resort where Erdogan and his family narrowly escaped a bevvy of soldiers who barged into his hotel during the night of the coup, last year.
The trial started in February and included Erdogan as a co-plaintiff and is the biggest such case to reach a conclusion so far.
“I hope the verdict today is beneficial to everyone,” Bastog said as he sentenced 34 of the accused to “aggravated” life sentences, the harshest punishment possible under Turkish law because it lengthens the minimum sentence required for parole.
Another six defendants were given life terms while two others were given lesser sentences.
“(Several) defendants have been found guilty on the charge of attempting to assassinate the president,” Bastog told the courtroom brimming with audience.
Besides the punishment to 42 security officials, one was acquitted and another was transferred to a separate court.
No verdict was given for three who were tried in absentia, including US-based cleric Fethullah Gulen, whom Ankara blames for orchestrating the coup.
Aftre the announcement, the police escorted the defendants as police escorted from the courthouse with Pro-Erdogan demonstrators throwing eggs and plastic bottles at them.
The court heard final statements from the defendants just before Bastog delivered his verdict. Some of the accused said they did not believe the court could deliver a fair verdict and had been under political pressure.
“From the moment I was arrested at the air base on July 16, I was treated like a criminal,” Ergun Sahin, a former air force lieutenant, told the court.
Another defendant, Gokhan Sen decried being refused fair trial.
“We are just the grass that elephants trampled on during their fight.”
On the other hand, Erdogan’s lawyer, who was present at the case, said that justice had been served.
“Had these putschists succeeded that night in the attack against our president, history would have changed, we would be living in a different Turkey now,” Huseyin Aydin said.
More than 240 people were killed on the night of July 15, 2016, when putschists commandeered tanks, warplanes and helicopters, attacking parliament and attempting to overthrow the government.
Although there were calls for a capital punishment for the defendents but Turkey abandoned capital punishment more than a decade ago as part of its bid to join the European Union.
Erdogan has previously said he would be willing to restore the death penalty if parliament passed such a measure.
The Erdogan-led Turkish government blames the network of Gulen, a former ally of Erdogan, for orchestrating the failed coup.
Gulen, who has lived in self-imposed exile in Pennsylvania since 1999, has denied involvement and condemned the coup.