Turkey's Court of Cassation ordered a longer prison term for Ali Yazıcı, a former aide-de-camp of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, for his role in the assassination bid targeting Erdoğan during the 2016 coup attempt.
The court announced final verdicts on Friday in a case regarding the assassination attempt on Erdoğan that was narrowly avoided when soldiers loyal to the Gülenist Terror Group (FETÖ) sought to seize power. Yazıcı was among the 37 defendants sentenced earlier by a lower court in Muğla where the assassination attempt took place. The top court said in its ruling that an 18-year prison term for Yazıcı was "low," and he should be given a heftier sentence as "a main perpetrator" of the crime. Yazıcı was originally charged for aiding and abetting other soldiers who stormed the hotel where Erdoğan was staying in the city of Marmaris in Muğla on July 15, 2016. Erdoğan and his entourage had left the premises earlier upon learning of the coup attempt and the would-be assassins killed two police officers at the hotel before they fled upon the arrival of anti-coup security forces. All but one were captured days later in the Marmaris countryside.
The Court of Cassation upheld aggravated life sentences for the team of assassins led by Brig. Gen. Gökhan Şahin Sönmezateş. Sönmezateş was among the rare defendants in coup-related cases who admitted he indeed took part in a coup, while almost all the defendants claimed they did not participate in or were not aware that a coup was unfolding.
Friday's ruling said that although Yazıcı was not at the crime scene, he was involved in planning the assassination and organizing the military officers tasked with the killing attempt, as well as finding the exact location of the president on July 15, 2016. On that day, Yazıcı traveled from the capital Ankara to a military base in İzmir where the team of assassins left for the attempt on Erdoğan's life.
Putschists linked to FETÖ killed 251 people on July 15, 2016, in their attempt to seize power. Strong resistance including those slain by coup plotters thwarted the attempt. Erdoğan, who secretly flew to Istanbul from Marmaris during the coup attempt, is credited with mobilizing the nation to stand against the putschists.
In a crackdown against FETÖ following the coup attempt, tens of thousands of people, mostly from the army, were detained, and hundreds were handed down aggravated life imprisonment and lesser terms in subsequent trials on the coup attempt. Still, the terrorist group lingers as a security threat, and authorities carry out operations almost on a daily basis to capture suspects linked to FETÖ. On Friday, security forces detained 73 out of 126 wanted suspects in an investigation against the group. Suspects, mostly lawyers, were part of FETÖ's "judiciary cells" and were staying in houses designated by the group to help them study for judiciary exams so they can be judges and prosecutors in the future. FETÖ is known for its widespread infiltration of the judiciary, which helped it carry out its first coup attempt in 2013. In December that year, prosecutors and judges, along with police chiefs loyal to the terrorist group, tried to overthrow the government under the guise of a graft probe that netted people close to the government.