ANKARA (Reuters) — Nearly 500 suspects including army generals and pilots went on trial in Turkey on Tuesday, August 1, many of them accused of commanding last year’s failed coup attempt from an air base in the capital Ankara.
Families of those killed or wounded protested outside the courthouse, with some throwing hangman’s nooses or stones toward the defendants as they arrived under tight guard, shouting “murderers” and demanding that the death penalty be reinstated.
The government declared a state of emergency after the coup attempt and embarked on a large-scale crackdown that has alarmed Western allies of Ankara, a NATO member and candidate for European Union membership.
A total of 461 suspects jailed pending trial were brought to the courthouse, handcuffed and each flanked by two gendarme officers. Seven defendants are still on the run, while another 18 have been charged but not in jail.
The main defendant in the case is the 76-year-old US-based cleric Fethullah Gulen, whose followers are blamed by the government for carrying out the failed coup. Gulen is being tried in absentia, and denies any role in the coup attempt.
Former air force commander Akin Ozturk and other defendants stationed at an air base northwest of the capital are accused of directing the coup and bombing government buildings, including parliament, and attempting to kill President Tayyip Erdogan.