Top Turkish court upholds dozens of aggravated life sentences in 2016 coup plot trial

Turkey's Court of Cassation, top appeals court, has upheld 77 aggravated life sentences given to the 18 defendants including senior soldiers and "civilian imams" in the most high-profile trial into the July 15, 2016 failed coup attempt.

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Turkey's Court of Cassation, the country's highest court of appeals, has upheld dozens of life sentences given to 18 defendants accused of leading a 2016 coup attempt from Akıncı Airbase near the capital Ankara on charges of "attempting to assassinate the president," "murder," and "seeking to overthrow the constitutional order," state-run Anadolu Agency reported on on Dec. 19.

The defendants included senior soldiers and four ringleaders, dubbed "civilian imams" over ties to the Gülen network, Kemal Batmaz, Hakan Çiçek, Nurettin Oruç and Harun Biniş.

The court also upheld the prison sentences of 3,865 years and 6 months each given to the 18 defendants on charges of “deliberate attempt to murder” and “deprivation of liberty.”

The trial included 469 defendants in total. The court overturned the ruling for 39 defendants, and upheld the conviction or acquittal rulings for 430 defendants.

The court upheld 16 aggravated life sentences given to former fighter pilot Müslim Macit, who killed 15 people near the presidential complex during the coup attempt.

The court overturned the 16 years and 8 months prison sentences each given to defendants Ertuğrul Cihat Sungur, Ali Mert Tüfekçi, Hakan Doğan, Raif Can Dursun, Yıldırım Kılıçarslan and Uluç Hüseyin Hançer for “aiding the attempt to overthrow the constitutional order” and 10 years prison sentence each for “deprivation of liberty” for detaining some commanders. The actions of these defendants were not within the scope of “aiding the crime” and that they should be punished as "main perpetrators,” the court said.

The court also overturned the aggravated life sentence given to Fatih Aydemir, saying he did not come to Akıncı Airbase on the day of the coup attempt and was sentenced for his actions outside. A case should be filed against Aydemir for these actions separately from this trial, it added.

More than 250 people were killed and scores of others were wounded on July 15, 2016, when putschist soldiers commandeered warplanes, helicopters, and tanks and sought to take control of state institutions and overthrow the government of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.

The Akıncı Airbase was used by the coup plotters as a command center to coordinate attacks, including by fighter jets that bombed parliament and the presidential complex. The base was later renamed as Mürted Airbase.

The trial was the highest-profile of dozens of court cases targeting thousands of people accused of involvement in the coup attempt, which is widely believed to have been orchestrated by U.S.-based Islamic preacher Fethullah Gülen.

The Gülen movement, which is officially called the Fethullahist Terrorist Organization (FETÖ), is an ally-turned-foe of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP). Their ties were strained in 2013 following a graft probe.