17 prime suspects in 2016 coup trial given life sentences by Turkish court

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People hold banners as Turkish Gendarmerie escort defendants Akin Ozturk (3L) and others involved in last July's attempted coup in Turkey as they leave the prison where they are being held, ahead of their trial in Ankara, on May 22, 2017. The trial opened on May 22, 2017 of more than 220 suspects, including over two dozen former Turkish generals, accused of being among the ringleaders of the attempted coup last year aimed at ousting President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. / AFP PHOTO / ADEM ALTAN

The Ankara 17th High Criminal Court on Thursday handed down aggravated life sentences to 17 prime suspects in the main trial for the 2016 coup attempt, the state-run Anadolu news agency reported.

Former high-ranking military officers Akın Öztürk, Ahmet Özçetin, Ali Osman Gürcan, Bilal Akyüz, Cemil Turhan, Erhan Caha, Fırat Alakuş, Hakan Evrim, Kubilay Selçuk, Mehmet Dişli, Mehmet Partigöç, Ömer Faruk Harmancık, Murat Koçyiğit, Mustafa Barış Avıalan, Orhan Yıkılkan, Sinan Sürer, Muhsin Kutsi Barış and Osman Kılıç were accused of violating the constitution, attempting to overthrow the government and involvement in the murder of 139 people on the night of the coup.

US-based Islamic cleric Fethullah Gülen, who was accused by the Turkish government of orchestrating the abortive putsch, was among the defendants, but his file was separated due to his absence during the two-year long trial.

Fifteen other former military officers were also given life sentences, along with Birol Kurubaş, a civilian who was accused of membership in the Gülen movement.

Although Gülen and his followers deny any involvement, Turkey launched a post-coup crackdown targeting the movement.

Since the coup attempt in July 2016, some 140,000 public servants have been fired by government decrees and more than 500,000 people have been the subjects of prosecution over Gülen links.

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