An Istanbul court on Friday sentenced Sgt. Yusuf Yıldız to aggravated life in prison for his role in last year's July 15 coup attempt blamed on the Gülenist Terror Group (FETÖ). The verdict is the first in the coup trials continuing in Istanbul. Twenty-three conscripts under Yıldız's command were acquitted.
Yıldız and the conscripts were charged with attempting to take over the Istanbul Governorate during the attempted putsch by FETÖ members in the military. They were stopped and captured by security forces. Yıldız denied charges and claimed he was ordered by his superiors to aid security forces as a measure against a terrorist attack targeting the governorate, a common defense by the defendants in most coup trials where suspects claim they thought they were taking measures against possible terrorist plots on orders from their superiors.
The officer was the only one who was jailed while the conscripts were released pending trial. Prosecutors asked for life in prison for him both for his role in the coup attempt and for membership in a terrorist group. They asked for the acquittal of the conscripts "who would not know about a coup attempt in their capacity", and due to a lack of evidence for their links to the terrorist group. "Yusuf Yıldız ordered the advance to the governorate despite police officers having stopped him and his troops and told him a coup was underway," the prosecutors said.
During the coup bid, 250 people, including unarmed civilians confronting putschists, were killed. Thanks to the strong resistance from the public, it was quelled in the early hours of July 16.
Hundreds of military officers are on trial in a string of coup trials across Turkey that started in December. Several suspects were already sentenced to life imprisonment in other trials while the hearings of senior military figures accused of commanding the soldiers active in the coup attempt are still underway.
In the coup trials, most of the defendants, despite mounting evidence showing their involvement, deny the charges brought before them in the courts. They either blame their superiors or putschists killed in clashes for forcing them to participate.