Five former soldiers were handed aggravated life sentences by an Istanbul court on Friday for abducting the commander of the Turkish Armed Forces' Naval Academy during the July 15, 2016, coup attempt, which is blamed on Gülenist Terror Group (FETÖ).
Adm. Mesut Özel was among the commanders of the military held hostage during the coup attempt in which 249 people were killed. Nine officers were on trial for the abduction.
Istanbul's 25th High Criminal Court handed down life sentences for Maj. Zafer Gümüş, Maj. Cüneyt Aydoğan, Capt. Semih Barbaros Üstün, 1st Lt. Halil Tekatlı and İsa Demirbilek on coup charges. An additional 12-year sentence was given for the abduction.
The judges ruled out any reduction to the sentences as the "defendants did not exhibit any remorse for their actions during the course of the trial." A separate trial will be held for Maj. Mustafa Köroğlu and Col. Uğur Yıldız, two putschist officers who remain at large.
Özel was at home in Istanbul when putschist soldiers raided his house. They then forced their way into a military prison where they placed him in a cell.
In his testimony, Özel said that after the coup attempt was quelled, the defendants tore his military uniform before taking him hostage. "Aydoğan called me that night and asked me to come to [a military base] to see an important message from army headquarters. I wore my military uniform. Then Köroğlu came to my house to drive me to the base. On the road, two officers got in the car and took hold of my arms. Köroğlu told me that a martial law was declared. Then, they handcuffed me and took me to Maltepe military prison," he said. Özel was released hours later.
Since the coup attempt, tens of thousands of suspects have been detained or arrested for their links to FETÖ while a large number of civil servants have been dismissed from their jobs for their association with the group.
FETÖ is accused of orchestrating multiple coup attempts in Turkey and its members face terrorism charges. According to prosecutors, the group used its infiltrators in the military to run the coup attempt, overseen by its non-military point men.
In 2017, more than 40 trials for over 500 defendants were concluded. Some 110 individuals were acquitted, but more than 330 people, mostly high-ranking military officers, were sentenced to life. Many others were handed down more lenient sentences for their FETÖ links.