486 suspects appear in court in Turkey’s coup trial

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Defendants Kemal Batmaz (first row C) and Akin Ozturk (second row 2nd L) and other defendants arrive for their trial accompanied with gendarmerie commandos of Sincan Penal Institution at Ankara 4th Heavy Penal Court in Ankara, Turkey on August 01, 2017. Mustafa Kamaci / Anadolu Agency

Turkey’s largest trial relating to a botched coup attempt on July 15, 2016 began on Tuesday at the Ankara 4th High Criminal Court.

A total of 486 people accused of taking part in the coup attempt are standing trial. The suspects, who were thought to have received orders from Akıncı Airbase, were allegedly plotting to assassinate Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan on the night of the coup attempt.

According to the Turkish government, Akıncı Airbase, northwest of Ankara, served as the headquarters for plotters and the orders to bomb Parliament and overthrow Erdoğan were sent out from there.

The trial is expected to last 29 days.

Tensions were observed between families of those who were killed on the night of coup attempt and lawyers for the defendants before the hearing began. Some of the families of the defendants were not allowed into the courtroom due to a lack of space and heightened tensions.

Turkish police and gendarmerie took security measures in the courthouse and formed a barrier between defendants and complainants. Lawyers for the defendants were brought into the courtroom using another door after being accosted by the complainants. Presiding judge Selfet Giray asked the parties to obey the rules of the court and warned that they would be removed from the courtroom if the tension continued.

Ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) Deputy Chairman Hayati Yazıcı said the AKP is going to demand to participate in the trial. The main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) also wanted to be involved in the proceedings.

People carrying Turkish flags protested the defendants as they were brought to the courtroom and chanted slogans demanding their execution.

Turkey survived a military coup attempt on July 15, 2016 that killed 249 people and wounded more than a thousand others. Immediately after the putsch the AKP government along with President Erdoğan pinned the blame on the faith-based 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.

Turkey’s Justice Ministry announced on July 13 that 50,510 people have been arrested and 169,013 have been the subject of legal proceedings on coup charges since the failed coup.

Turkey has suspended or dismissed more than 150,000 judges, teachers, police and civil servants since July 15.

Erdoğan is criticized for using the coup attempt as an excuse to oppress dissident voices.

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