Turkey court jails over 300 for life in mass trial for failed 2016 coup

Turkey court jails over 300 for life  in mass trial for failed 2016 coup
Above, Turkish military enter Fatih Sultan Mehmet bridge in Istanbul on July 16, 2016 following a coup attempt. (AFP)
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Updated 27 November 2020

Turkey court jails over 300 for life in mass trial for failed 2016 coup

Turkey court jails over 300 for life  in mass trial for failed 2016 coup
  • 475 defendants in case, which began in August 2017, included ex-pilots, army commanders

JEDDAH: A Turkish court sentenced leaders of a 2016 attempted coup to life in jail on Thursday, convicting hundreds of army officers, pilots and civilians over a failed bid to topple President Tayip Erdogan directed from an air base near the capital Ankara.
More than 250 people were killed in the July 15, 2016 coup attempt when rogue soldiers commandeered warplanes, helicopters and tanks to take control of institutions and overthrow Erdogan’s government.
The trial of nearly 500 defendants was the highest profile of dozens of court cases targeting thousands of people accused of involvement in the coup attempt, which Ankara blamed on supporters of the US-based Muslim preacher Fethullah Gulen. He has denied having any role.
Based at the Akinci air base, the defendants were accused of directing the coup and bombing government buildings, including parliament, and attempting to kill Erdogan. Many of the military commanders involved have already been sentenced to life in jail.
“The treacherous network which rained bombs on parliament, the presidency and our people was convicted again before justice and our nation,” said Omer Celik, Erdogan’s AK Party spokesman.
“It is continuing to organize every kind of treachery in various countries to harm Turkey,” he wrote on Twitter. “Our battle with putchist terrorism will continue.”
Four ringleaders, dubbed “civilian imams” over their ties to Gulen’s network, were among 19 defendants who received 79 aggravated life sentences for charges of attempting to assassinate the president, murder, and seeking to overthrow the constitutional order, state-owned Anadolu news agency said.

HIGHLIGHTS

• The court jailed 337 for life. Sixty were given jail sentences, while 75 were acquitted.

• The trial of the ‘kill squad’ who attempted to storm Erdogan’s hotel will resume on Nov. 30.

• The govt is still carrying out nationwide operations against the Gulen movement, blamed for instigating the putsch.

F-16 pilots who carried out attacks were also among those given aggravated life sentences — the severest punishment in Turkish courts — meaning there is no possibility of parole.
Most of the other defendants also received life sentences, while 19 were jailed for aiding the coup and 41 for terrorist group membership. Seventy people were acquitted, Anadolu said.
Turkey’s then-military chief and now defense minister Hulusi Akar and other commanders were held captive for several hours at the base on the night of the coup. A total of 475 people were on trial, 365 of them in custody.
The 79-year-old cleric Gulen, who was once an ally of Erdogan and has denied any role in the coup, was one of six defendants being tried in absentia. Their dossiers were separated from the main trial, media reports said.
The government declared a state of emergency in Turkey — a NATO member and candidate for European Union membership — after the failed coup and carried out a large-scale crackdown which alarmed Ankara’s Western allies.
Some 292,000 people have been detained over alleged links to Gulen, nearly 100,000 of them jailed pending trial, Anadolu cited Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu as saying.
Some 150,000 civil servants were sacked or suspended after the coup, with some 20,000 expelled from the military. Courts have handed down more than 2,500 life sentences.
Four years on, police operations targeting suspects accused of links to Gulen continue on a regular basis.
The government has said the crackdown was needed given the security challenges which Turkey has faced to root out a network of Gulen supporters deeply embedded in the state apparatus. 


Lebanese protesters break lockdown: ‘Death by COVID-19 is better than starvation’

Lebanese protesters break lockdown: ‘Death by COVID-19 is better than starvation’
Updated 26 January 2021

Lebanese protesters break lockdown: ‘Death by COVID-19 is better than starvation’

Lebanese protesters break lockdown: ‘Death by COVID-19 is better than starvation’
  • Hundreds of people took to the streets in Tripoli, Sidon, and Beirut to denounce the suspension of the economy

BEIRUT: The closure and curfew period in Lebanon has been extended for two more weeks to contain the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), prompting people in Tripoli, Beirut, and Sidon to take to the streets.

The protests were spontaneous, considering that the neighborhoods from which they started are poor, where the residents work for daily wages.

The Minister of Social Affairs and Tourism in the caretaker government Ramzi Musharrafieh said on Tuesday that “230,000 families in Lebanon benefit from aid and have been receiving 400,000 Lebanese pounds ($263) per month since the beginning of the crisis.” He added that “25 percent of the Lebanese people do not need aid.”

Hundreds of people took to the streets in Tripoli, Sidon, and Beirut to denounce the suspension of the economy and the failure to provide people with alternatives.

One of the protesters said: “Contracting COVID-19 and dying of it is easier than having my family and myself starve to death.”

Protesters in Tripoli took to Al-Nour Square on Monday after days of expressing their impatience and protesting outside the houses of the city’s officials.

One of the protesters said: “COVID-19 does not scare us. We cannot tolerate this life of humiliation anymore. The officials in power have starved and robbed us.”

The protesters clashed with the security forces — the army and the Internal Security Forces — hurling stones and water bottles at them. 

Their chants demanded financial compensation for the poorest families, who have not been able to work for two weeks and must wait a further two weeks before they can return to their jobs, resulting in a whole month without any financial income.

The protests spiralled out of control and turned into riots that ended with dozens of arrests. Several army personnel were deployed to control the situation in Al-Nour Square and its vicinity. Riot police used tear gas to disperse the protesters.

The Lebanese Red Cross said it brought in six ambulances as 41 people were injured during the protests. The organization transferred 12 people to hospitals, while 29 were treated at the scene.

In support of the Tripoli protests, dozens gathered at the Ring Bridge in central Beirut.

Activists gathered in Sidon’s Elia Square for a vigil, amid security measures. The protesters chanted slogans denouncing the political authority’s arbitrary decisions, which they argue worsened the economic collapse. 

Some protesters said that 60 percent of the poor people in Lebanon are suffering because of these decisions, which were not accompanied with support for people who were laid off due to lockdown measures.

The protests extended to Taalbaya in the Bekaa and the coastal town of Jiyeh. The protesters moved from the poor neighborhoods of Beirut to Corniche el Mazraa and blocked the road, but the riot police reopened it.

Bechara Al-Asmar, head of the General Labor Union, told Arab News: “Things are heading toward chaos, and the authorities’ decisions are ill-considered. When forcing people to stop working, it is important to give them incentives and compensation. There are 120,000 daily workers impacted by the closure, which has come amid a severe economic crisis.”

He added: “They must exempt the factories that suspended production so that they can survive and not lay off their workers if the closure results in stopping operation. 

“What can the factories that have agreements with clients abroad do to deliver their products? This is the only sector that is bringing Lebanon fresh money and giving people jobs.”

Al-Asmar said that aid provided by the government “covers 47,000 families, and a further 8,000 taxi drivers have been added to them. This is a small percentage compared to the need among the general population.”

He continued: “Employees are now receiving half a salary or a very meager salary if they don’t lose their jobs as employers prefer shutting down their businesses to continuous losses.”

Bechara added: “We are facing a major social crisis. The daily workers are complaining of their inability to put bread on the table, while the state is unable to hold coordination meetings, so how can it provide compensation for those affected?”