34 soldiers fail to appear in coup hearing due to participation in al-Bab battle
AFP photoAn Istanbul court trying 62 soldiers on allegations that they raided Istanbul Sabiha Gökçen Airport on the night of the July 15, 2016, coup conducted its first trial on Jan. 23 in the absence of 34 on-duty soldiers who are currently participating in Turkey’s Euphrates Shield operation in northern Syria.
The head of the court, Ali Öztürk, said they sent notification about the case to the 34 soldiers but were notified in response that some of the soldiers were abroad, participating in the al-Bab operation in northern Syria.
The operation began as part of Turkey’s Euphrates Shield offensive launched in August 2016, to clear its border of Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) militants.
“Because there cannot be a court notice sent abroad, we could not issue a second notice,” said Öztürk.
The suspects are charged with “attempting to abolish” the Turkish parliament and the Turkish Republic through force. Some of the suspects are also accused of being members of an “armed terror organization,” while others are accused of “aiding an armed terror organization without being a member.”
The organization in question is the Gülenist network of U.S.-based preacher Fethullah Gülen, who is widely believed to have orchestrated the coup attempt in Turkey on July 15, 2016.
The suspects face three aggravated life term each, as well as jail terms extending from five to 10 years.
In the trial, one of the soldiers, Specialized Sgt. Yusuf Yaylaz, said they were dispatched to Sabiha Gökçen Airport after a higher-ranking soldier told them that intelligence had been received regarding an imminent terror attack.
“The people stopped us at the security gate. In the meantime, my wife texted me. She said the bridges were closed. Later a citizen climbed up onto the [military] vehicles. He said a coup d’état was taking place. This person called a police officer he knew. Until the police came, we secured the weapons and then surrendered. I did not use any weapons,” said Yaylaz in his court testimony.