70 former air force cadets handed life terms in Turkey coup trial
Istanbul (dpa) – An Istanbul court on Friday sentenced 70 former Turkish Air Force cadets to life for their role in a 2016 coup attempt.
However, 55 of the cadets were tried in absentia as they are believed to have fled abroad, state news agency Anadolu reported.
The trial involves a total of 72 suspects, of whom only 15 were present at the hearing. They were charged with “violating the constitution.”
Istanbul’s chief prosecutor had sought aggravated life sentences for all the accused, Anadolu said. Aggravated life sentences are the harshest terms in Turkey since it abolished the death penalty in 2002, as there is no chance for parole.
The cadets, based in Yalova outside Istanbul, were “ordered to drive” to Istanbul at 10:15 pm on July 15, 2016, carrying ammunition, according to the prosecutor.
Of the 72, two men driving the cadets were not sentenced.
Turkey blames US-based Islamic cleric Fethullah Gulen for the attempted coup by a faction of the military. Gulen has denied any role in the putsch, which left 251 dead and more than 2,000 injured.
The shadow of 2016 is ever present in Turkey as weekly raids and arrests continue of those allegedly linked to the coup plotters, as do trials.
In the post-2016 backlash, tens of thousands were purged from the police, military and judiciary. Civil servants, academics and journalists were also sacked and media houses shut down.
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