The Supreme Court of Appeals approved the convictions of 237 suspects in the “Balyoz” (Sledgehammer) coup-plot case this morning, including former First Army Gen. Çetin Doğan, former Air Force Gen. Halil İbrahim Fırtına, opposition Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) deputy and former general Engin Alan, former Navy Adm. Özden Örnek and other high-ranking retired generals.
The court approved the acquittal of 36 suspects, while quashing the convictions of 63 other suspects on the grounds that they had agreed to commit a crime but had not followed through and actually committed an infraction. The suspects will soon be released, although it was not immediately announced when and if they would face a retrial.
The court also ordered the release pending a retrial of 25 imprisoned suspects over problems with evidence.
The much-anticipated final verdict announced by the Ninth Criminal Chamber of the Supreme Court of Appeals is seen as the precursor for other controversial coup cases into plots like Ergenekon and the Feb. 28 process.
Ahead of the release of the verdict, the police took extra security measures around the court building upon a demand by the court’s secretary-general.
The verdict is the product of the longest trial in the history of the Supreme Court of Appeals, with the process including defenses from 96 lawyers at 17 sessions that stretched out for a month.
Throughout the appeal case, the defendants’ lawyers mainly focused on allegations that the digital date used in the case evidence was fabricated.
The 96 lawyers representing 361 suspects made their final defenses to the court on Aug. 16, the day the trial was wrapped up. Istanbul’s 10th Court of Serious Crimes made a ruling on Sept. 21, while the decision’s reasoning was passed to the Office of the Chief Prosecutor of the Supreme Court of Appeals on Sept. 27.
The case was brought to the agenda after documents titled “Balyoz Operation Plan,” dating back to 2003, were revealed by daily Taraf three years ago.