Turkey: Trial of main suspects in coup attempt begins

Dozens of people protested in front of Ankara court as defendants arrive

The first day of the trial of the main suspects in last year’s attempted coup in Turkey began Monday.

There were heavy security measures outside and inside the court in the Sincan district of Ankara, with around 500 security personnel deployed in the area.

Among the 221 defendants is Fetullah Gulen, who will be tried in absentia. U.S.-based Gulen is said to be the head of the Fetullah Terrorist Organization (FETO), which Turkey has said was behind last July’s attempted coup.

Those present for the opening day of the trial were members of the Peace at Home Council, the committee established by the coup plotters to replace the government if the putsch had succeeded.

All but 12 of the suspects are members of the military, including a general, three lieutenant generals, four major generals, 16 brigadier generals and three rear admirals.

Prominent defendants include Ali Yazici, the former military aide to President Recep Tayyip Erdogan; Levent Turkkan, Chief of General Staff Gen. Hulusi Akar’s ex-aide; and Muhammet Uslu, a former official in the prime minister’s private office.

Dozens of people waving Turkish flags protested in front of the court as the defendants arrived, some brandishing nooses — a reminder of the popular call for the return of the death penalty in the wake of the coup bid.

The indictment — accepted by the 17th Heavy Penal Court in Ankara on March 8 — outlined the “attempt to overthrow the democratic constitutional order by treasonous FETO members with 35 planes, 37 helicopters, 246 armored vehicles and around 4,000 light weapons.”

The suspects are also facing charges of attempting to overthrow parliament, attempting to overthrow the government, attempting to assassinate the president, murdering 250 people and attempting to murder 2,735 people.

It detailed how the putschists targeted parliament, the presidential palace and other institutions such as police headquarters and a satellite company.

Erdogan is listed as the complainant in the case while Akar, who was captured and held prisoner on the night of the coup attempt, was listed among the “soldiers who were victims”.

The government has accused FETO of being behind a long-running campaign to overthrow the state through the infiltration of Turkish institutions, particularly the military, police and judiciary.

The July 15 attempted coup left 250 people dead and around 2,200 wounded.