First July 15 coup attempt case trial begins in Istanbul

First July 15 coup attempt case trial begins in Istanbul

First July 15 coup attempt case trial begins in Istanbul

AFP photo

The first trial into Turkey’s July 15 coup attempt began in Istanbul on Dec. 27 amid tight security measures at a courthouse inside a prison complex that was once known as the venue for hearings in cases led by judges and prosecutors inside the Fethullah Gülen network. 

Twenty-nine police officers are being tried at Istanbul’s 22nd High Penal Court in Istanbul’s Silivri district on a range of charges connected to July’s deadly coup attempt, widely believed to have been orchestrated by the followers of U.S.-based Islamic preacher Gülen. 

Among the 29 officers, 25 were remanded in custody for disobeying orders to resist the coup attempt. The police officers are charged with disobeying orders to defend the Hüber Kiosk, a presidential palace in Istanbul, on the night of the July 15 coup.

They are also accused of attempting to persuade their colleagues and citizens not to join the mobilization against the coup. 

According to the indictment, 21 defendants face three aggravated life sentences each. The eight remaining officers face prison sentences ranging from nearly eight years to 15 years.

The head of the court, Judge Fikret Demir, said he would collect the testimonies of the suspects in the first two days, hear the witnesses on the third day and finally hear demands on Dec. 30. 

Security was tight at the courthouse in Silivri, west of Istanbul, including a heavy police presence. Reporters were not allowed to bring cameras and other equipment into the building. 

A one-hour lunch break was given to the hearing in addition to small breaks every 110 minutes for official camera recording. 

The courthouse in Silivri became well-known after it was also used in trials against suspects in 2013 accused of a separate coup plot known as Ergenekon. That case, which was strongly supported by Gülen, saw 275 military officers, journalists, lawyers and academics indicted for allegedly conspiring to oust President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. However, the suspects were then released following a Constitutional Court ruling and their convictions were quashed earlier this year, with the authorities accusing Gülen of perverting the legal process and fabricating evidence.

“Everyone involved in the coup attempt must have a fair trial,” Orhan Çağrı Bekar, a lawyer who represents some of the victims of the coup, told reporters. “Those who are guilty must be sentenced to the heaviest punishment because this is a betrayal of the country.” 

While the trial on Dec. 27 is the first related to the coup, it does not include the alleged ringleaders, who are due to go on trial, probably next year, in Ankara. 

The government said earlier this year that a new court would be built in an Ankara district as there were no courts big enough in Turkey to handle such large numbers of defendants. 

Five months after the coup, small-scale trials of suspects have already begun in various provinces. The trial of 47 suspects accused of trying to assassinate Erdoğan in the holiday resort of Marmaris on the Aegean Sea is due to begin in Mugla on Feb. 20, 2017. The trial in Istanbul is the most significant to date and the first in the Turkish metropolis.

The coup plotters killed 248 people, according to officials, and Erdoğan has said there are strong public demands for retribution even extending to re-imposing the death penalty.