Oct. 4 (UPI) — A Turkey court on Wednesday sentenced nearly three dozen military personnel to life in prison for their roles in attempting to assassinate President Recep Tayyip Erdogan during a failed coup last year.
A total of 47 people went on trial in Mulga. One was acquitted, six received life sentences and two received lighter sentences.
Exiled cleric Fetullah Gulen, who has been accused of plotting the July 2016 coup attempt, has received no verdict in his trial, which began in February.
Gulen, who now is living in the United States, has denied any involvement in the uprising. Turkey considers his group a terrorist organization. Several of his supposed followers have been arrested.
Since the attempted coup, 50,000 people are still awaiting trial and another 150,000 have been detained or dismissed from their jobs. Many people have already been sentenced, but Wednesday’s verdicts were the first of high-level plotters.
Some of the generals and lieutenants convicted Wednesday were accused of raiding Erdogan’s hotel the night of the operation, although the Turkish president and his family were able to escape.
“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, said in court.
“Words don’t mean anything here as we didn’t have chance to a fair trial,” Gokhan Sen said. “We are just the grass that elephants trampled on during their fight.”
The Turkish government has said the judiciary is independent.
Outside the court Wednesday, Erdogan’s supporters waved banners and called for the death penalty, which was abolished in Turkey in 2004 when the country was seeking admission to the European Union.
Supporters of those arrested also appeared outside the courthouse in other trials in Ankara.