Twenty-six generals are standing trial. US-based Fethullah Gulen and 12 others are being tried in absentia as they are either exiled abroad or on the run. Gulen is accused of orchestrating the July 2016 attempt to topple the president and government.

Turkish Gendarmerie escort defendants Akin Ozturk (C) and others accused of taking part in the July 15, 2016 attempted coup in Turkey, ahead of the start of their trial in Ankara on May 22, 2017.
Turkish Gendarmerie escort defendants Akin Ozturk (C) and others accused of taking part in the July 15, 2016 attempted coup in Turkey, ahead of the start of their trial in Ankara on May 22, 2017.

The trial of 221 people accused of attempting to overthrow President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and the Turkish government last July started on Monday in Ankara.

The accused include 26 former Turkish generals who are believed to be the ring leaders. Gendarmerie ushered the defendants into the courtroom inside a secure prison complex in Sincan outside Ankara.

The indictment – accepted by the 17th Heavy Penal Court in Ankara on March 8 – outlined the "attempt to overthrow the democratic constitutional order by treasonous FETO members with 35 planes, 37 helicopters, 246 armoured vehicles and around 4,000 light weapons."

FETO (Fethullah Terrorist Organisation) is the acronym Ankara uses to refer to the network of US-based Fethullah Gulen, whom Turkey accuses of masterminding the attempted July 15 coup. Gulen denies any involvement in the failed putsch.

Gulen lives in self-imposed exile in the United States. He is one of 12 of the 221 accused who are being tried in absentia. There are 12 civilians who are also facing charges related to their support for the coup attempt.

Suspects booed ahead of trial

Several dozen protesters holding Turkish flags booed at the suspects, shouting "We want the death penalty!" with placards saying: "For the martyrs and veterans of July 15, we want the death penalty!"

Among the 26 generals are former air force chief Akin Ozturk and Mehmet Disli, the brother of senior governing party lawmaker Saban Disli. Also on trial is Colonel Ali Yazici, Erdogan's former military aide.

The case is being heard in Turkey's largest courtroom, which was purpose-built to hear coup-related trials and has space for 1,558 people.

The charges against the defendants include "attempting to abolish the Turkish Parliament by force and violence," "attempting to abolish the Turkish government by force and violence," "managing an armed organisation," "attempting to assassinate the president," "killing 250 citizens," "injuring 2,735 citizens," and "restricting the liberty of state officials."

The attempted putsch left close to 250 people dead, not including 24 alleged coup-plotters killed on the night. More than 2,000 civilians were wounded.

Source: TRTWorld and agencies