Eighty-six defendants, mostly prominent businesspeople, will appear before an Istanbul court today, for a high-profile trial over their links to the Gülenist Terror Group (FETÖ) including financing it. Among other crimes, FETÖ is accused of orchestrating the July 15, 2016 coup attempt that killed 249 people.
In the "TUSKON" trial - named after an umbrella body of business world - suspects who ran companies with large turnovers face life imprisonment and lesser prison terms for membership of the group and the attempt to overthrow the government. Fetullah Gülen, the group's U.S.-based leader, is among those who face life imprisonment. Ömer Faruk Kavurmacı, a textile tycoon who also happens to be the son-in-law of former Istanbul Mayor Kadir Topbaş and Faruk Güllü, a dessert magnate who runs a chain of baklava shops, is among the well-known figures on trial. Along with Gülen, Rızanur Meral, former chairman of now-defunct TUSKON, will be tried in absentia. In a well-publicized event, Meral had denounced operations against FETÖ and openly threatened the government one year after FETÖ tried to seize power twice through its infiltrators in the law enforcement and judiciary. Kavurmacı and some other defendants had attended the 2014 meeting, which is viewed as first show of defiance by FETÖ, after the government labeled it "a national threat."
The hearing will be held in a prison complex in Istanbul's Silivri district where the majority of FETÖ suspects captured in operations after the coup bid is held. Thousands of suspected members of the group were detained or arrested after the insurrection attempt carried out by infiltrators of the terrorist group in the army.
FETÖ, which runs a global network of companies and schools under the guise of a religious charity, mainly depends on donations by its followers. Known as "himmet," the donations were either voluntary or forcibly taken from the wealthy people blackmailed by the group's members, according to prosecutors.
Last Friday, more than 50 people, all former staff of Kaynak Holding, the main business conglomerate of the terrorist group whose assets were seized earlier by the state, were detained in anti-FETÖ operations. Kaynak Holding long served as the chief financier of the group, according to authorities, before it was seized in 2015.