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Military cadets convicted on coup charges released after 6 years in prison

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A number of military cadets who were convicted on coup charges and sentenced to life in prison due to their alleged role in a coup attempt in Turkey in July 2016 have been released from jail after an appeals court overturned their sentences, according to a platform defending the rights of jailed military cadets.

The cadets will be retried and are expected to either get a lighter sentence or be acquitted.

Turkey survived a military coup attempt on July 15, 2016 that claimed the lives of 251 people and was suppressed overnight.

The military cadets were indicted on coup charges for blocking the Fatih Sultan Mehmet Bridge (FSM) over the Bosporus on the night of the coup. The cadets testified that they had no idea that a coup was unfolding and they were just acting on orders from their superiors, who told them there was a terrorist attack.

There were a total of 75 defendants in the trial, 70 of whom were air force cadets. Seventy of the cadets were given aggravated life sentences by an İstanbul court in 2018 on charges of violating the constitution, and arrests warrants had been issued for 55 of them who were not in pre-trial detention. Most of these cadets had fled abroad to avoid jail.

The military cadets committee announced on Twitter on Thursday that a court has decided for the release of “some of their friends” who had been tried regarding the blockade of the FSM bridge on the night of the coup attempt. The committee did not say the exact number of the cadets who would be released, saying that details would be announced later.

“We will get all of our friends from there [jail] one day, because we are innocent. Justice is being served, and we are happy about it. A right decision has been made even if it is late,” tweeted the committee.

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 a year after they were put in pretrial detention, and their trial was concluded in 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 government and parliament by use of force as well as membership in a terrorist organization.

Immediately after the abortive putsch, the Justice and Development Party (AKP) government along with President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan pinned the blame on the faith-based Gülen movement. The movement strongly denies any involvement.

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