SINCAN: More than 220 suspects, including 26 former generals, went on trial on Monday accused of being among the ringleaders of last year’s attempted coup against Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
Furious protesters outside the court demanded the death penalty and flung rope nooses at the defendants as they were marched into the building handcuffed and held by the security forces.
Turkey blames the failed July 15 putsch on US-based Muslim cleric Fethullah Gulen, a claim he strongly denies, and has launched a relentless purge against those deemed to have backed the plot.
Gulen is among 12 of the 221 suspects in the current trial who remain at large. The remainder appeared in court for the first time inside a prison complex in Sincan outside Ankara.
The suspects were paraded into the building by heavily-armed security forces forming two columns in front of television cameras.
Dozens of protesters holding Turkish flags booed at the suspects, with placards saying: “For the martyrs and veterans of July 15, we want the death penalty.” “We want the death penalty, we don’t want them to be fed and housed here. We want these traitors to be buried without any flag,” said protester Cengiz Ozturk.
Turkey abolished the death penalty as part of its drive to join the European Union but Erdogan has on occasion indicated it could be reimposed to deal with the coup plotters.
‘Martyrs don’t die’
Twenty-six generals are among those charged, including former air force chief Akin Ozturk and Mehmet Disli, the brother of senior ruling party lawmaker Saban Disli.
Also on trial are colonel Ali Yazici, Erdogan’s former military aide, and Lieutenant Colonel Levent Turkkan, who was the aide to Chief of Staff General Hulusi Akar.
The most prominent figure among the suspects, Ozturk was dressed crisply in a black sweater and held a blue file as he was led into the court.
His appearance contrasted with the last known image of him which showed him bearing injuries including a bandaged ear after his capture two days after the coup bid.
The first suspect to give his defence, Ozturk vehemently denied any link to the coup bid. He described how he devoted his life to the Turkish military and said the charges were “unfair accusations”.
“These accusations are for me the greatest punishment,” he told the court. “The commanders who have fostered me, and my army friends, know well that I played no part in this treacherous coup attempt. In fact, I had no idea.”
In a tense start to the trial, relatives of coup victims shouted “martyrs don’t die, the motherland cannot be divided”, a refrain often used by the public and politicians in tribute to those killed during the putsch.
A mother of one of those killed yelled at the suspects before she was taken away by force.
The case is being heard in Turkey’s largest courtroom, which was purpose-built to hear trials related to the coup, and has space for 1,558 people. There was heavy security in place, with a drone flying overhead and armoured security vehicles on site as well as snipers on the roof.
Published in Dawn, May 23rd, 2017