What stage are the coup cases at on the second anniversary of July 15, 2016?
Two years have passed since the July 2016 failed coup attempt. In these two years, important progress has been made regarding the trial processes of the perpetrators of this coup attempt, which targeted Turkish democracy.
For example, the trial process regarding the events that happened on the night of the coup attempt on the “July 15 Martyrs’ Bridge” came to an end on July 12. Some 143 defendants stood trial, out of which 72 were given aggravated life sentences and 27 others were sentenced to a prison term of 17 years or less. Some 44 defendants, including one third-lieutenant and 43 privates, on the other hand, were acquitted.
According to the statistics of the Justice Ministry, of the total 289 coup cases filed after July 15, 2016, 194 were settled as of July 12. This figure shows two thirds of coup cases have been finalized at the level of the first instance court. In these cases, a total of 2,381 defendants were given a prison sentence, including 1,624 who were sentenced to life in prison. The remaining 757 defendants have received prison sentences between one to 20 years.
The Justice Ministry unfortunately does not provide statistics regarding the number of defendants who were acquitted following the trial process. However, similar work prepared at the end of July 2017 showed a third of defendants were acquitted. We can say that although not all, an important part of the suspects who were acquitted were privates who had carried out their commanders’ orders on the night of July 15, 2016.
There are currently 95 coup cases, which have not been yet settled. However, it would not be surprising for a majority of cases to be settled by the end of this year. Out of these remaining, three cases are of vital importance and none of these three are at the stage of decision-making.
The most important of these remaining cases is the Akıncı Air Base case, which deals with events at the Akıncı Air Base, which was used as a command center of the Gülenists on the night of the coup attempt. Some 481 currently stand trial in the case. The second most important remaining case is the General Staff case, which looks into the events at the Turkish General Staff Headquarters on the night of the coup attempt.
Currently, 221 defendants stand trial in this case. The third most important case deals with events at the Ankara Güvercinlik Army Air Base. Some 115 defendants are on trial in this case. The prosecutors have not even presented their legal opinions regarding the Akıncı Air Base and Güvercinlik cases.
The coup cases are being settled one after another in first instance courts, and their appeal processes have already started in courts of appeals. So, in the upcoming period, the outcome of applications of these appeals filed will become important. That will be followed by the ruling of the court of cassation, which is the last stage of the appeal process.
In the appeal process for defendants who were caught red-handed on the night of the coup attempt and whose initiatives were presented to the court with concrete and persuasive evidence, nothing will be open to discussion. The imprisonment sentences handed down for these perpetrators will meet the satisfaction of society’s calls for justice.
One of the discussions of the upcoming appeal process would be the issue of whether or not a part of coup suspects acted out of malice on the night of July 15. There are many suspects who took part in the coup that night, but afterwards said they did not know this activity had served the coup attempt and learned about it later. These suspects say they have carried out the order of their commanders. So, different rulings from different courts may come out for these defendants, which will be an issue that should be tackled during the appeal process.
Another issue is the situation of officers and generals, who were among the list of people the coup plotters planned to assign as commanders if the coup attempt succeeded. There have been different evaluations undertaken by prosecutors and courts in the case of these names.
A critical exam awaiting the appeal process is that it discriminates between Gülenist suspects who joined the coup attempt knowingly and the suspects who were associated with the Gülen network in their absence or found themselves in the middle of the coup activity unknowingly.
In any case, there is important progress that has been made regarding these cases after July 15, 2016. As the turbulence of the post-coup period is behind us, it is now time to look at these coup case files more coldbloodedly and fair-mindedly.