The first hearing of one of the most anticipated trials since the failed July 15 coup attempt started Monday in the southwestern city of Muğla. Forty-four defendants accused of attempting to kill President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan during his stay in the city at the time of the coup appeared before the court where they are being tried for links to the Gülenist Terror Group (FETÖ), which is charged with masterminding the putsch bid.
Brig. Gen. Gökhan Şahin Sönmezateş, who led the team of assassins which was entirely comprised of military officers, said he was instructed to "take" Erdoğan by Semih Terzi, another brigadier general, who was killed in the capital of Ankara as he tried to take over a military base.
Amid tight security measures and against the backdrop of a rallying call for the reinstatement of the death penalty, 44 defendants were taken into the conference hall of a local chamber of commerce, as the existing courtroom in the city was unable to accommodate all defendants and plaintiffs.
Sönmezateş was in command of 28 officers from different military units gathered for the purpose of assassinating or capturing President Erdoğan while he and his family were staying in a hotel in the district of Marmaris in the Muğla province for a vacation.He managed to flee after the mission failed due to Erdoğan and others vacating the hotel after learning of the unfolding coup attempt. Sönmezateş was captured in the capital of Ankara days after the coup attempt.