Turkey’s years of reckoning with the brutal coup attempt that killed 251 people and injured nearly 2,200 others is nearing its end. Out of 287 trials against coup plotters, only two remain inconclusive though they are expected to be completed this year.
This week, six defendants were sentenced to aggravated life imprisonment in one of the last major trials, with 497 defendants, in the capital Ankara. The two remaining trials are being held in the capital and western province of Çanakkale.
So far, 4,820 defendants were handed down prison terms in the trials. Some 2,099 among them were sentenced to life and out of 2,099, 1,626 defendants were handed down aggravated life imprisonment. The rest was sentenced to lesser prison terms while some, mostly conscripts, were acquitted and released from prison.
Tens of thousands of people linked to the terrorist group were detained or arrested following the attempt. Prosecutors launched more than 100,000 investigations.
Appeals processes are underway for trials. The Supreme Court of Appeals upheld verdicts in 78 trials.
The government vowed swift justice for the perpetrators but the sheer number of those involved in the putsch bid prolonged the trials. FETÖ is known for its widespread infiltration of the army, law enforcement, judiciary and bureaucracy. It first attempted to overthrow the government in 2013 with its infiltrators in the judiciary and the Turkish National Police. It failed, and the group faced increased scrutiny. When news broke that the military was preparing to launch a mass purge of FETÖ-linked officers in August 2016 at the Supreme Military Council which oversees rank promotions and dismissals, the group moved to prevent the move with the coup attempt. Strong public resistance ultimately stopped the coup, and most of those involved were arrested. FETÖ's leader Fetullah Gülen, however, and 12 others, mostly civilian members of the terrorist group, remain at large.
In the meantime, security forces still carry out operations against the group on an almost daily basis. On Friday, 43 suspects were arrested in nationwide operations. The Ankara police conducted simultaneous operations in 33 provinces and arrested 33 FETÖ suspects. This came after the Chief Public Prosecutor's Office in Ankara issued arrest warrants for 53 suspects, including 19 active duty soldiers, as part of probe into the terror group's infiltration of the Turkish gendarmerie force.
According to a statement by the prosecutor's office, an investigation was initiated after the suspects were found to be communicating via pay phones with covert imams (senior FETÖ members) who infiltrated the Gendarmerie General Command.
Furthermore, in an Istanbul-based operation launched in nine provinces, police arrested 10 FETÖ-linked terror suspects. As part of a probe into the group, the Istanbul Chief Public Prosecutor's Office had issued arrest warrants for 12 suspects. The suspects were found to be involved in the terror group's network of infiltrators in the judiciary. Documents including "organizational notes" and digital material were seized in the raids, police sources said.
Also on Friday, a Turkish court sentenced a senior operative of FETÖ to over 17 years in prison. The Second Heavy Penal Court in the western province of Izmir found Yusuf Bekmezci guilty of management of an armed terror group. Bekmezci was sentenced to 17 years and four months in prison.
Bekmezci and Mehmet Fatih Arslan, another senior member of FETÖ, were nabbed on Jan. 20, 2020, by police counterterrorism teams at a luxury residence in Izmir. During the operation, Akif Sarı, a so-called "district imam" of Izmir's Karşıyaka, had also been arrested at one of the terror group's cell houses. They were remanded in custody by a court, and another case was opened against Bekmezci for attempting to overthrow constitutional order.
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