Turkey’s top appeals court has upheld life sentences handed down to 60 former military cadets who were jailed in the aftermath of a failed coup in July 2016 and convicted on coup charges, according to a platform defending the rights of jailed military cadets.
Three former female air force cadets — Nagihan Yavuz, Nimet Ecem Gönüllü and Şüheda Sena Öğütalan — are among the 60 whose sentences have been upheld. They were convicted in May 2018.
The cadets have denied taking part in the coup attempt and said they were only acting on orders from their superiors, who told them there was a terrorist attack on the night of the attempted coup on July 15, 2016.
Dozens of other military cadets who were sentenced to life on coup charges have been released in recent months for retrial after the Supreme Court of Appeals overturned their sentences. The cadets had been in jail for about six years. The top court’s latest decision on the 60 former cadets has come as a disappointment for those who were awaiting a similar ruling that would have made their release possible.
“The life sentences given to our friends in the Orhanlı trial have been upheld by the Supreme Court of Appeals. Take the cadets into the midst of chaos, open fire on them, then give them life sentences. Damn your justice,” the military cadets committee tweeted on Wednesday.
Orhanlı refers to the trial of military cadets over incidents that took place at the Orhanlı toll booths in the Tuzla neighborhood of İstanbul on the night of the coup attempt.
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.
A documentary telling the stories of military cadets in Turkey, hundreds of whom were unjustly convicted due to their alleged involvement in the failed coup in 2016, premiered on YouTube several days before the sixth anniversary of the coup attempt this month, drawing more than 1 million viewers.
Following the coup attempt, 16,409 military cadets were expelled from their academies by emergency decree-laws subject to neither judicial nor parliamentary scrutiny, and 355 of them were given life sentences, with some of them overturned by the Supreme Court of Appeals, according to figures revealed at the end of the video. As of July 2022, 209 cadets are still behind bars.