An Istanbul court has handed down a 10-year sentence to Savaş Kırbaş, a prosecutor linked to the Gülenist Terror Group (FETÖ). Kırbaş was a prosecutor in the infamous Balyoz (Sledgehammer) case that saw the imprisonment of top military officers on trumped-up charges.
The 26th High Criminal Court sentenced Kırbaş to a decade in prison for being a member of the terrorist group.
FETÖ, amid other crimes, is blamed for the July 15, 2016 coup attempt that killed 251 people. Kırbaş was arrested a month after the coup attempt and was dismissed from the judiciary. All 236 defendants in the Sledgehammer case were acquitted two years ago after a court found that the key evidence in the case was falsified. The Sledgehammer case refers to an alleged coup plot staged by the First Army Command on March 5-7, 2003, in an attempt to overthrow the government. First Army Commander Çetin Doğan was among senior military officers implicated in the case that later turned out to be the work of FETÖ-linked police officers and judiciary members, who used forged evidence and false testimonies to imprison the officers.
It was one of the two cases to stifle the critics of FETÖ and help its members gain a foothold in the army.
The other case, known as Ergenekon, was a wider trial that implicated academics, intellectuals and prominent figures known for their opposition of the terrorist group, which once posed as a charity with religious undertones under the name of the Gülen Movement. It is now believed that Sledgehammer and Ergenekon helped FETÖ promote Gülenist officers in the army by imprisoning top military officers opposing them on trumped-up charges and eventually carry out the 2016 coup attempt.
Tens of thousands were detained or arrested and dismissed from their jobs in the military and the public sector after the attempt. Some FETÖ members managed to flee abroad, while others are believed to be hiding their ties to the group. Fetullah Gülen, the U.S.-based leader of the terrorist group, is known for instructing his followers to disguise themselves. Authorities launch almost daily operations across the country to capture FETÖ suspects. Speaking in Parliament yesterday, Defense Minister Hulusi Akar, who served as the army chief at the time of the coup attempt, said that 15,153 people were dismissed from the army after the 2016 coup attempt for their affiliation with FETÖ and only 323 have returned to their posts after they were acquitted of charges.