A court in Istanbul handed down life sentences on 28 former soldiers for trying to take control of Istanbul's Sabiha Gökçen Airport during the Gülenist Terror Group's (FETÖ) failed coup attempt on July 15, 2016. Meanwhile, authorities launched new operations to capture military officers linked to the terrorist group, and 50 suspects were detained yesterday.
The judges of the Istanbul 23rd Heavy Penal Court unanimously sentenced eight officers to aggravated life imprisonment and 20 others to life imprisonment for violating the Constitution. During the coup attempt, one non-commissioned officer from the same unit committed suicide inside a tank upon learning that their actions were in fact a coup attempt. Most FETÖ-linked officers lied to their subordinates and soldiers, claiming that a terror attack was taking place and that the Turkish Armed Forces (TSK) was acting in its command chain to explain their unusual orders. Following the pro-coup soldiers' surrender, detention and transfer to another area, one escorting police officer was killed due to fire from a pro-coup military unit.
The hearing was attended by locals and Pendik District Mayor Kenan Şahin. On July 15, six people were killed and 42 others were injured in the district as locals tried to prevent other pro-coup units from reaching the airport. The files of 34 privates that took part in the coup attempt were separated in an earlier hearing. The coup attempt led to the deaths of 250 people, mostly civilians, and injured 2,200 others.
Yesterday, detention warrants were issued for 66 people linked to the terrorist group by the Chief Prosecutor's Office in the western city of Eskişehir. Eskişehir is a major hub for the Turkish Air Force and among the suspects were on-duty soldiers, fighter jet pilots and former officers. Media outlets reported that some suspects were "secret imams" for FETÖ. The term refers to the "civilian" members of the terrorist group who coordinate the actions of its infiltrators in the military, law enforcement, judiciary, etc. Fifty suspects were detained, while the operations were underway to capture 16 others when Daily Sabah went to print. Authorities say Adil Öksüz, a fugitive FETÖ figure accused of masterminding the coup attempt, was an "imam" for the group's infiltrators in the Air Force. Investigations have shown Öksüz, along with other senior figures of the group, planned the coup with generals linked to FETÖ and had the approval of the group's U.S.-based leader Fetullah Gülen. The group's former members testified that coup plotters met in a villa in the capital Ankara months before the putsch bid and discussed how to seize power.
Coup trials have been underway all across Turkey since last December, but only a small fraction of the cases have reached conclusion. Recently, a group of soldiers, including a general, were sentenced to life for attempting to kill President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan during the insurrection attempt.