Over 200 go on trial over Turkey coup bid

Former air force chief Akin Ozturk, the most prominent figure among the accused, being escorted by Turkish security forces as he arrives at the court outside Ankara yesterday. Heavy security was in place as the accused were paraded into court.
Former air force chief Akin Ozturk, the most prominent figure among the accused, being escorted by Turkish security forces as he arrives at the court outside Ankara yesterday. Heavy security was in place as the accused were paraded into court.PHOTO: REUTERS

26 generals among those accused of being involved in failed attempt to oust Erdogan

SINCAN (Turkey) • About 220 people, including more than two dozen former generals, are on trial, accused of being among the ringleaders of the attempted coup last year aimed at ousting President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

Furious protesters outside the court yesterday called for the death penalty for the accused and flung rope nooses at the defendants as they were paraded into court handcuffed and held by members of the security forces.

Turkey blames the attempted July 15 putsch on the United States-based Muslim cleric Fethullah Gulen, a claim he strongly denies, and has launched a relentless purge under a state of emergency against those deemed to have backed the plot.

Mr Gulen is among 12 of the 221 accused in the current trial who remain at large, with the remainder appearing in court for the first time inside a prison complex in Sincan, outside Ankara.

The accused were paraded into the courtroom by heavily armed security forces forming two columns in front of television cameras.

Dozens of protesters holding Turkish flags booed the accused, with placards saying: "For the martyrs and veterans of July 15, we want the death penalty."

Protester Cengiz Ozturk said: "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."

Turkey abolished the death penalty as part of its drive to join the European Union but Mr Erdogan has on occasion indicated it could be reimposed to deal with the coup plotters.

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 Ali Yazici, a colonel who was Mr Erdogan's ex-military aide, and Levent Turkkan, a lieutenant-colonel who was aide to Chief of Staff Hulusi Akar.

The most prominent figure among the accused, Ozturk looked far different from his last known image - which showed him bearing injuries, including a bandaged ear, following his capture two days after the coup bid.

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 the 248 who were killed during the putsch.

A mother of one of those killed yelled at the accused before she was taken away by force.

The case is being heard in Turkey's largest courtroom, which was purpose-built to hear coup-related trials with space for 1,558 people.

There was heavy security in place, with a drone flying overhead and armoured security vehicles onsite as well as snipers on the roof.

Almost 40 of those on trial are accused of being part of the "Peace At Home Council", the name the plotters are said to have given themselves on the night of the failed coup.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 23, 2017, with the headline 'Over 200 go on trial over Turkey coup bid'. Print Edition | Subscribe