Turkish prosecutors, part of a judiciary strongly under the influence of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, have demanded 3,623 aggravated life sentences for Islamic scholar Fethullah Gülen, who lives in self-imposed exile in the US, the pro-Erdoğan Yeni Şafak daily reported on Monday.
“A total of 3,623 aggravated life sentences, 2,923 years in jail and a TL 221 million fine have been demanded for Gülen, the leader of the US and NATO-backed occupation attempt [a failed coup] on July 15,” said Yeni Şafak on its front page, calling Gülen the prime suspect in 22 cases filed across Turkey.
The military coup attempt on July 15 killed over 240 people and wounded more than a thousand others. Immediately after the putsch, the Justice and Development Party (AKP) government along with President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan pinned the blame on the Gülen movement.
Fethullah Gülen, who inspired the movement, strongly denied having any role in the failed coup and called for an international investigation into it, but President Erdoğan — calling the coup attempt “a gift from God” — and the government initiated a widespread purge aimed at cleansing sympathizers of the movement from within state institutions, dehumanizing its popular figures and putting them in custody.
Turkish Justice Minister Bekir Bozdağ on May 7 said 149,833 people have been investigated and 48,636 have been jailed as part of an investigation targeting the Gülen movement since the July 15 coup attempt in Turkey.
Prosecutors and Judges replaced with Erdoğan cronies
According to news website t24, the government has dismissed 4,238 of Turkey’s 14,661 judges and prosecutors since July 15.
The government has been criticized for using the coup attempt as an excuse to purge judges and prosecutors and replace them with names close to the AKP and President Erdoğan.
Main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) İstanbul deputy Barış Yarkadaş said last week that the AKP government had recruited for the position of judge 800 lawyers who had ties to the party.
Justice Minister Bozdağ on Aug. 17 announced a government plan to name 8,000 new judges and prosecutors by the end of 2016.
On Dec 8, 2016, the European Networks of Councils for the Judiciary (ENCJ) suspended the observer status of Turkey’s Supreme Board of Judges and Prosecutors (HSYK) and excluded it from participation in ENCJ activities for the mass suspension and dismissal of judges and prosecutors and the failure to comply with the European Standards for Councils for the Judiciary.
No evidence of Gülen coup-attempt link
Contrary to accusations made by President Erdoğan and the Turkish government, the Foreign Affairs Committee of the UK Parliament concluded in March that Gülen and the movement he inspired as a whole were not behind the failed coup in Turkey.
The UK Parliament statement came a week after Germany rejected Erdoğan and the Turkish government’s accusations against the Gülen movement about July 15.
The head of Germany’s Federal Intelligence Service (BND), Bruno Kahl, said Turkey could not convince them that US-based Turkish-Islamic scholar Gülen was behind the failed coup in July.
Similarly, Devin Nunes, chairman of United States House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, said he has not seen any evidence showing Gülen’s involvement in the putsch in Turkey.
In addition, a report prepared by the EU Intelligence Analysis Centre (IntCen) revealed that the coup attempt was staged by a range of Erdoğan’s opponents due to fears of an impending purge.
In February, Henri Barkey, director of the Middle East Program at the Washington-based Wilson Center, said that many generals purged by the Turkish government are pro-NATO and pro-American, saying this could create a shift in Turkey-NATO relations.