Turkey tries soldiers for attempting to assassinate Erdogan

The trial of over 40 officers and soldiers accused of attempting to assassinate Turkey's president during the July 15, 2016 attempted putsch started on Monday. The case could be a test for the restoration of the death penalty in Turkey.

Photo by: Reuters
Photo by: Reuters

Turkish gendarmes escort the suspects accused of attempting to assassinate Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan to trial in Mugla, Turkey, February 20, 2017.

The trial of more than 40 Turkish soldiers accused of attempting to assassinate President Recep Tayyip Erdogan during last year's failed coup started on Monday.

The defendants were taken under tight security to a courthouse in the southwestern city of Mugla, not far from the luxury resort where Erdogan and his family narrowly escaped the soldiers, fleeing in a helicopter shortly before their hotel was attacked.

Calls for restoration of death penalty

The suspects include Erdogan's former aide-de-camp. They were wearing suits when they were brought from prison to the courthouse. A crowd of some 200 people waved flags and called for their execution.

Turkey abandoned the death penalty in 2002, as part of its bid to join the EU. Since the attempted putsch, calls for its restoration have increased.

"We want the death penalty. Let the hand that tried to harm our chief be broken," said one of the protesters, 61-year-old Zuhal Ayhan, referring to Erdogan. "I'd give my life for him."

Almost all of the accused were soldiers. All those on trial face multiple charges including attempting to assassinate the president, violating the constitution and being members of an armed terrorist organisation.

Crackdown on FETO

More than 240 people were killed during the July 15 failed coup and over 2,000 wounded, when a group of rogue officers and soldiers commandeered tanks, warplanes and helicopters, attacking parliament and attempting to overthrow the government.

Turkey says the coup was orchestrated by US-based Fethullah Gulen and his organisation, which Ankara calls the Fethullah Terrorist Organisation (FETO).

Gulen has lived in self-imposed exile in Pennsylvania since 1999, and denies any involvement in the attempted coup. Turkey is seeking Gulen's extradition to stand trial.

The government accuses FETO of being behind a long-running campaign to overthrow the state through the infiltration of Turkish institutions, particularly the military, police and judiciary.

Since the failed coup, more than 40,000 people have been arrested and more than 100,000 have been sacked or suspended from the military, civil service and private sector in Turkey's bid to eradicate FETO.

The government says the measures are necessary, given the security threat.

Turkey launched its first criminal trial related to the coup attempt in December and more trials are expected.

Source: 
TRTWorld and agencies