Decision for coup cases now on Supreme Court
Five years ago, on July 15, in those first moments when the coup attempt showed itself through actual moves at the field, we were in the dark about the nature, dimensions and magnitude of the attempt.
Now, after five years, there are 289 de facto coup cases across Turkey, which were submitted to the court after the attempted coup of July 15, 2016. Excluding the case of the fifth Regiment Command, which is still ongoing in northwestern Çanakkale province, some 288 cases out of a total of 289 have been concluded at first instance courts.
Even though there are small cases with one of two defendants, within this total, there are also large-scale cases such as the case with Akıncı Air Base, where 475 defendants are being tried. Another reason for this is that different methods were used by prosecutors’ offices in the filing of these cases, which spanned in 56 provinces.
In Istanbul, for instance, a separate lawsuit was filed for each location and place where the coup attempt took place, which resulted in a total of 56 lawsuits. In the case of the Akıncı Air Base, the indictment expanded when the coup activities in the Air Force, which spread to different provinces, were gathered under a single roof as a whole.
What did trials show?
A large part of the military activities carried out on the night of July 15, 2016, has come to light today, based on the detailed administrative investigation reports prepared by military authorities before these trials, based on their indictments, other evidence revealed during the investigation and trial phases and the corpus of statements made.
Nevertheless, all the facts that have emerged do not necessarily mean that there are still no questions needed to be answered regarding the night of July 15. Without a doubt, the need to clarify the questions that are sought to be answered by the public will not disappear in the forthcoming period. However, the fact that this is the case does not change the basic truth that confronted us on the night of July 15.
The decisive fact in all these case files is that on the night of July 15, upon the instruction given from a single center, a systematic military activity started all over the country at the same time, and there was a secret organization affiliated with Fetullah Gülen at the center of the implementation and the decision-making mechanism of this insurrection; whether you call it FETÖ if you want, or “cemaat” (“community” in English).
Nearly one-third of defendants acquitted
In fact, the 288 de facto coup cases concluded in the last five years provide important data in terms of evaluating the military activities carried out on the night of July 15. First of all, in these cases, we see that rulings have been made for 8,724 people in first instance courts.
As per the rulings, 1,634 defendants (with an 18.7 percent ratio) received aggravated life imprisonment, 1,366 defendants (15.6 percent) received life imprisonment, some 1,890 defendants (21.6 percent) got fixed-term sentence while, 2,870 defendants (32.9 percent) were acquitted, and it was decided that there was no need for a penalty for 964 defendants (11.1 percent).
As can be seen, the rate of those who were acquitted in the courts among the defendants tried in coup cases nears almost one-third of the total. When the decisions for no penalties are combined with this category, this rate reaches 44 percent. Although there are soldiers of all ranks among those acquitted, we must say that privates and specialist sergeants constitute a significant sum.
Penalties, acquittals by military ranks
Some 85 generals, 1,116 military officers, 266 non-commissioned officers, 266 specialist sergeants, six police officers, 12 privates, 61 cadets and 32 civilians received aggravated life sentences.
Some 24 generals, 536 military officers, 181 non-commissioned officers, 170 specialist sergeants, nine police officers, 92 privates, 352 cadets and two civilians received life imprisonment.
Some 26 generals, 775 military officers, 323 non-commissioned officers, 427 specialist sergeants, 156 police officers, 106 cadets, 31 civilians and an administrative chief received fixed-life sentences.
Meanwhile, some 24 generals, 461 military officers, 397 non-commissioned officers, 615 specialist sergeants, 32 police officers, 1,165 privates, 154 cadets and 22 civilians have been acquitted.
28.7 pct of cases, including Supreme Court phase, concluded
The figures we have provided so far are only the results of the rulings from first instance courts. The full clarity of this regarding the judicial processes will be possible with the conclusion of appeals phases. Of course, it is also necessary to consider the individual applications that can be made to the Constitutional Court in the next phase.
It should be noted that the appeal phase in coup cases functions very rapidly. There are still 14 cases for which the appeal procedure has not been completed and 15 cases for which the decisions have been recently overturned. On the other hand, 251 case files passed the appeal stage and have been transferred to the Supreme Court for appellate review.
Up to this point, the Supreme Court has upheld 79 decisions and reversed 41 decisions referred to itself. Currently, some 131 decisions are under review at the Supreme Court.
In addition, four cases were finalized without going to the appeal process. When it is taken into account that the Supreme Court has affirmed 79 decisions, we can say that 83 of the total 289 coup cases have been finalized. In other words, 28.7 percent of the coup cases have been concluded in the last five years.
Increase in number of acquittals possible
In any case, in the upcoming period, the ball will largely be in the court of the Supreme Court in coup cases. In particular, the volumes of case files with many defendants - such as cases for “Genelkurmay Çatı” and Akıncı Air Base - indicate that this period may extend to a long period of time.
The decision announced in the “Genelkurmay Çatı” case in 2019 passed the appeal last year and arrived at the Supreme Court. Although the case for Akıncı Air Base was concluded last November, its reasoned decision, amounting to some 9,204 pages, was recently announced on July 12. There are also the upcoming appeals and Supreme Court stages for this case.
Incidentally, given the line drawn so far in the appeals phase, we must make the following observation. Conviction-acquittal rates in the decisions of first instance courts vary to a certain extent at the Supreme Court. As we discussed in a previous article, there were many developments on the release of defendants in some of the reversal decisions of the Supreme Court. More recent examples can be given in this direction.
Two results from cases
It is likely that when all these processes are concluded, it will not be surprising to see that the number of acquitted soldiers at the first-instance court decisions, which we shared at the beginning of the article, will increase even more.
This situation tells us that in the last five years, despite the significant progress made in terms of bringing perpetrators of the coup attempt to justice and holding them accountable, serious grievances have also been experienced during the proceedings.
The development we mentioned also makes it necessary to review some of the allegations made after July 15 and the hypotheses on this front regarding the role of non-FETÖ soldiers in the coup attempt.