After Turkey’s top appeals court in late July 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, the cadets have demanded their freedom in a public letter, urging the court to reverse its “historic, unfair, disastrous and unjust” decision.
Although they 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, the former cadets were convicted in May 2018 as part of the Orhanlı trial.
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.
The ex-military cadets sentenced to life in prison said in their open letter, released on Twitter by a platform defending the rights of jailed military cadets, that they want their “rightful cry” to be heard by the public and for the Supreme Court of Appeals to reverse its “historic, unfair, disastrous and unjust decision.”
They stated that it was “unacceptable” in any legal order, positive doctrine or set of values for the privates and cadets, who are in the lowest ranks of the army, to be tried and sentenced to life in prison for the “coup attempt in which they were mixed up in with all kinds of lies.”
“We appeal to the conscience of society, intellectual morality, media and political ethics, the power of justice and the justice of power! … We only want the freedom that we deserve,” they added.
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.
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 last 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.