The biggest trial yet against suspects accused of involvement in the July 2016 coup attempt began in Turkey on Feb. 28 in a courtroom specially built to hold more than 1,500 people.
Some 330 suspects who are being tried in Sincan outside Ankara
face multiple life sentences over their alleged links to the thwarted coup, which is widely believed to have been masterminded by the Fethullahist Terrorist Organization (FETÖ).
Some 245 of those named in the indictment are under arrest.
The suspects, many of whom are from the Polatlı Artillery and Missile School Command in Ankara, have been charged with murder or attempted murder. They also stand accused of attempting to remove the government and parliament of the Turkish Republic or trying to prevent those institutions from conducting their work.
Chief of General Staff Gen. Hulusi Akar and Turkish Gendarmerie Commander Gen. Yaşar Güler are among the complainants in the case.
The case is being heard at Sincan prison where there was heavy security in place, with a water cannon truck on site and a drone flying overhead as families arrived for the hearing.
The courtroom – which has space for 1,558 people – was packed with security forces surrounding the suspects as they testified.
The first suspect, a military cadet named Abdulkadir Kahraman, told the court that on the night of the failed coup, troops had been informed by their commander that there had been a terror attack and were given ammunition.
Other suspects gave similar statements, including Arif Ozan Demir, who told the court the commander told them there had been an attack and that they should “be prepared.”
Also speaking at the hearing, suspect Ahmet Aktaş said that while they were relaxing in their dormitories, Specialized Sgt. Can Taşçı gathered the soldiers to hear Company Cmdr. Oğuz Serdar Özgür, who told them that “the situation is critical and that they may go outside as a unit.” Aktaş also said they grabbed their weapons and ammunition and that Lt. Col. Abdülkerim Ceyhan told them that “they may use weapons.”
“When the people confronted us, Oğuz Serdar opened fire in the air and then we went back to our unit,” he said.
Another suspect, Ahmet Tamur, and Taşçı also gave similar testimony.
Taşçı, meanwhile, said he had no connection with FETÖ and that he never went to any of the courses or schools belonging to the group.
One of the suspects, Emin Özcan, said they were subjected to a test around 15 days before the foiled coup and that the results were announced on July 15, 2016. According to Özcan’s testimony, those who succeeded on the tests left the barracks while those that failed were not allowed to leave.
“If I had been successful in that test, I would have left the barracks. The reason I’m here today is the fact that I failed that test,” he said.
The hearing is one of several cases that opened across the country this month, with 47 people going on trial in the southwestern province of Muğla on charges of attempting to assassinate President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.
Until now, the largest has been held in İzmir, where 270 suspects went on trial late last month, including US.-based Islamic preacher Fethullah Gülen, who is being tried in absentia.