Fifteen defendants were handed down to aggravated life sentence by an Istanbul court Monday for trying to overthrow the government in a case related to the notorious Dec. 17, 2013 plot. The plot was the first bid by the Gülenist Terror Group (FETÖ), which is behind multiple coup attempts, to topple the government. Defendants including former police chiefs Yakub Saygılı, Kazım Aksoy, Yasin Topçu and Nazmi Ardıç were handed down the heaviest sentences under Turkish law while the court ruled to hold a separate trial for fugitive defendants including FETÖ leader Fetullah Gülen. Only six people were in jail for the 2013 attempt while others were either released pending trial or have been on the run.
The terrorist group, then posing as a religious movement, tried to overthrow the government by implicating ministers in a graft probe based on forged evidence. A group of people with close ties to ministers were detained on Dec. 17, 2013, eight days before a similar operation by police chiefs and prosecutors associated with FETÖ. Two operations raised an outcry and those involved in the detentions were eventually dismissed from their jobs. FETÖ's intricate infiltration into the judiciary had thwarted attempts to detain them while some among the suspects like Hüseyin Korkmaz, managed to flee. Korkmaz was among the witnesses testifying against a senior executive of public lender Halkbank in a trial in the United States and like Gülen, is believed to reside in the United States.
Sixty-seven people were on trial in the case and some defendants were also handed down prison terms for membership of a terrorist group, violation of privacy and illegal wiretapping, though it was still unclear what prison terms they were to receive when Daily Sabah went to print.
A trial on the Dec. 25, 2013 coup attempt by FETÖ concluded last year and 10 suspects were sentenced to aggravated life imprisonment in that trial.
FETÖ, originally known as the Gülen Movement, emerged as a national threat with the 2013 coup attempts. Investigations after the thwarted attempts revealed the group had infiltrators everywhere, from law enforcement to judiciary, from military to bureaucracy. Authorities stepped up efforts to weed out the infiltrators after the 2013 attempts and were about to dismiss and investigate its military infiltrators when FETÖ tried its hand in another coup again on July 15, 2016. It was the bloodiest attempt by the terrorist group and 251 people were killed while resisting the putschists. Thanks to strong public resistance, the attempt was foiled and tens of thousands of suspected Gülenists were detained or arrested.