A Turkish court on Wednesday handed down life sentences to 37 former air force cadets in a retrial on coup-related charges due to their alleged role in a coup attempt in Turkey on July 15, 2016, the TR724 news website reported.
The cadets, who took part in raids on the buildings of Turkish state broadcaster TRT and Digiturk, a satellite television provider, on the night of the coup attempt were given the initial life sentences by the İstanbul 24th High Criminal Court. They were upheld by a regional appeals court in January 2018.
The Supreme Court of Appeals, however, ruled in April 2021 after a review of the cadets’ appeals that the cadets should be retried on charges of assisting in violation of the constitution, which requires a lesser sentence.
Kemal Uçar, a lawyer representing the cadets, tweeted that 11 of the military cadets were given life sentences on charges of assisting a coup attempt, while 26 were given life sentences on charges of attempting a coup. He said only two of the jailed cadets were acquitted.
Main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) lawmaker Sezgin Tanrıkulu, also a prominent human rights advocate who followed the hearings at the Silivri Prison Complex in İstanbul, said he cannot find any words to express his sorrow about the court’s ruling, adding that the cadets have been given life sentences again at the end of a trial that was neither fair nor independent of political influence.
A total of 259 military cadets were detained on coup charges on July 16, 2016 and were arrested four days later. The cadets were indicted one year after they were put in pretrial detention, and their trial was concluded in May 2018. One hundred seventy-eight of the cadets were given life sentences on charges of attempting to overturn the constitutional order and attempting to overthrow the Turkish government and parliament by use of force as well as membership in a terrorist organization.
The cadets say they had no information about a coup attempt unfolding and were acting on orders from their superiors, who told them there was a terrorist attack.
The coup attempt killed 251 people and wounded more than a thousand others. Immediately after the abortive putsch, the Justice and Development Party (AKP) government along with President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan pinned the blame on the Gülen movement. The movement strongly denies any involvement.