Turkish military personnel detained over 'Gulen links'

Turkish military personnel detained over 'Gulen links'
Dozens of Turkish air-force personnel have been detained over alleged links to accused coup leader Fethullah Gulen.
3 min read
Fethullah Gulen (r) strongly denies Erdogan's (l) accusations of orchestrating a coup attempt [Getty]

Dozens of Turkish military personnel suspected of facilitating the failed coup attempt of 2016 were detained on Thursday morning, local media has reported.

Turkish police detained 65 suspects in an operation targeting members of the air force accused of links to the US-based preacher Fethullah Gullen whom Ankara accuses of orchestrating the coup attempt, according to Anadolu News Agency.

A total of 96 people were slapped with arrest warrants by prosecutors, 91 part of the air force.

Police are continuing their search for the remaining suspects in an operation focused on the western city of Izmir and spread across 15 provinces, it added.

In a separate operation, an Ankara prosecutor issued detention warrants for 93 employees of a private tutoring centre that was previously closed down on suspicion that it had links to the cleric, Gulen.

Life sentences

On Wednesday, prosecutors demanded that former generals suspected of being the ringleaders of a failed 2016 coup be handed 252 life sentences.

The trial in Ankara is the most significant in a series being held across the country to bring to justice tens of thousands of people charged over the coup attempt.

Several of the suspects on trial are accused of leading the so-called "Peace At Home Council", the name the plotters are said to have given themselves the night of the failed overthrow.

They include ex-air force commander Akin Ozturk, Mehmet Disli, the brother of senior ruling party figure Saban Disli and Colonel Ali Yazici, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's former military aide.

Prosecutors called for these figures and other members of the so-called "Peace At Home Council" to be given 252 aggravated life sentences each, the official Anadolu News Agency reported.

The Dogan News Agency described the sentencing requests as a "record" in Turkey.

The aggravated life sentence is a life sentence with more severe detention conditions and was brought in after Turkey abolished the death penalty.

It is common in Turkey for serious criminals to be given multiple life sentences. Erdogan has at times mooted bringing in the death penalty for the coup suspects, but no concrete steps have ever been taken.

Turkey blames the 15 July 2016 coup attempt on Muslim cleric Fethullah Gulen, a claim he strongly denies.

Gulen, who lives in self-imposed exile in the United States, is among several suspects named in the indictment but who are on the run.

The prosecutors also demanded that the suspects be held responsible for the bloodshed on the coup night and be given an additional 55,880 years in jail for this.

The attempted coup left 249 people dead, not counting 24 coup-plotters killed on the night of the putsch.

Turkish authorities have launched a vast crackdown in the wake of the coup bid and arrested tens of thousands with alleged links to the Gulen group and Kurdish militants.