Turkish court hands life sentences to 104 suspected Gulenists

Turkish court hands life sentences to 104 suspected Gulenists
Authorities blame the Gulen movement for the failed July 2016 coup attempt, and have launched a wide-ranging crackdown since.
2 min read
Erdogan giving speech during an AK party meeting in Ankara [Getty]

A Turkish court on Monday served life sentences to 104 people for their involvement in the July 2016 failed coup attempt against President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

The former military personnel were handed down "aggravated life sentences" in Izmir province, the state-run Anadolu news agency said. 

Such jail sentences, which replaced the death penalty in Turkey, carry harsher conditions than normal life sentences.

In total, 280 military staff are on trial over the failed coup bid.

Among the suspects receiving life sentences were former air force chief of staff lieutenant general Hasan Huseyin Demiraslan and ex-Aegean army command chief of staff major general Memduh Hakbilen.

Twenty-one suspects were handed 20-year jail sentences for "assisting the assassination of the president" while 31 were given sentences between seven and 10 years for being members of an armed terror group. 

There was an alleged plot to kill Erdogan on the night of the coup while he was on holiday in the Aegean resort of Marmaris with his family. The president has said the plot left him 15 minutes from death.

The attempted putsch claimed more than 240 lives, according to the Turkish presidency, not including 24 coup-plotters killed on the night.

More than 2,000 people were injured.

Ankara holds the Gulen movement responsible for the failed coup attempt, which is led by US-based Muslim cleric Fethullah Gulle -- a charge he strongly denies. 

Turkish authorities have labelled the Gulen movement a terror organisation. 

More than 50,000 people have been arrested and 140,000 public workers sacked or suspended over alleged Gulen ties since the 2016 coup attempt.

Turkish authorities have also seized Gulenists residing in other countries. 

Turkey has come under strong criticism from its Western allies for the scale of its crackdown.

Erdogan has called for snap presidential and parliamentary elections slated for 24 June, a year-and-a-half before they were due. The early election is set to accelerate Turkey's transition to the new presidential system with full executive powers, which critics fear will lead to one-man rule.

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