High court overturns life sentences handed to conscripts in coup trial
Oya Armutçu - ANKARA
The Court of Appeals has overturned life sentences handed to a total of 14 conscripts in a failed coup attempt trial in Istanbul and ruled for the acquittal for the soldiers.
The case was related to the attempt to seize the building of the state broadcaster TRT in Istanbul on the night of the botched putsch.
The higher court ruled that a provision in article four of the penal code should apply to the conscripts, thus it decided to refer the case to the 26th High Criminal Court for a retrial.
The provision of the article reads that any person who makes an inevitable mistake about whether his act was unjust or not shall not be subject to penalty.
In its deliberation, the Court of Appeals concluded that the conscripts became aware of the coup attempt in a later stage, but they refused to obey the orders from their superiors to open fire on civilians and security forces. The conscripts came to the conclusion that opening fire into the air would not be unjust given the circumstances that they would have not acted otherwise in the face of their superiors’ unlawful orders.
The Court of Appeals also noted that the conscript were armed under the pretext of night drill, their internet access were severed, they were not allowed to use mobile phones thus initially they were not aware of the failed coup attempt. The court stressed that any association between the conscripts, who were serving their mandatory military service at the time, and the FETÖ, which was behind the coup attempt, could not be proven.
The Court of Appeal’s ruling may pave the way for the conscripts’ acquittal.
The 26th High Criminal Court will retry the suspects. It may abide by the higher court’s ruling or may insist on its initial conviction. In the event of the latter case, the General Assembly of the Court of Appeals will look into the case.