More than 40 suspects sentenced for trying to assassinate Turkish president as part of defeated July 15, 2016 coup

A number of suspects in last year’s plot to assassinate Turkey’s president on Wednesday were handed lengthy jail terms, including aggravated life sentences.

A court in Mugla, southwestern Turkey, heard the case of more than 40 suspects charged with attempting to assassinate President Recep Tayyip Erdogan as part of the defeated July 15, 2016 coup.

Receiving four sentences apiece were former Brig. Gen. Gokhan Sahin Sonmezates, former Maj. Sukru Seymen, and former Master Sgt. Zekeriya Kuzu -- the so-called "base imam" of Cigli’s 2nd Main Jet Base Command in Aegean province of Izmir.

The court also sentenced Ali Yazici, Erdogan’s former military aide, to 18 years in prison.

The Fetullah Terrorist Organization (FETO), led by U.S.-based Fetullah Gulen, orchestrated the foiled coup attempt, which left at least 250 people martyred and around 2,200 others wounded.

The case involved 47 suspects, including 43 who were jailed pending trial and two suspects who remain at large, all charged with being part of the "assassination team" targeting Erdogan.

The first hearing was on Feb 20.

During the night of the coup attempt, two police officers were martyred at the scene of Erdogan's hotel in the Mediterranean port town of Marmaris.

That night Erdogan told the nation on live television he had narrowly escaped with his life when the hotel was bombed 15 minutes after he left the premises.

Evidence submitted in the main trial over last year’s defeated coup attempt in Turkey points to a key accused coup-plotter visiting the ringleader, Fetullah Gulen, at his U.S. home in early 2016.

Documentation submitted by the U.S. Homeland Security Department says that when questioned at the Newark, New Jersey airport on Jan. 1, 2016, Kemal Batmaz said he would stay with Gulen, head of the Fetullah Terrorist Organization (FETO), while in the U.S.

Batmaz is an accused “imam” of FETO, the group that orchestrated the defeated coup in Turkey of July 15, 2016, which left 250 people martyred and nearly 2,200 injured.

The evidence was sent on Sept. 8 to the Ankara 4th High Criminal Court, where 486 defendants are being tried over their alleged role in the coup at Akinci Air Base north of the capital Ankara, now known as Murted Air Base, which was used as a headquarters for the coup attempt on July 15.

They face charges including membership in a terrorist organization, attempting to assassinate the president, and trying to overthrow the parliament.

Evidence of FETO links

Batmaz, a civilian accused of being one of the defeated coup leaders, was arrested at the base on the morning of July 16. 

Batmaz and Adil Oksuz, another key accused coup-plotter, were reportedly caught on camera returning to Istanbul from the U.S. on July 13, 2016, two days before the attempted takeover. 

Authorities say they had visited Gulen at his home in the U.S. state of Pennsylvania to discuss the plot.

When Batmaz was accused in court of commanding the 143rd fleet at the 4th Main Jet Base Akinci, he denied it, saying he was in the area to inspect land he was considering buying.

On a May 30 hearing in the case, former Gen. Hakan Evrim denied having “saluted” Batmaz at the air base, despite video footage showing otherwise.

The U.S. airport security evidence was also sent to the Ankara 17th High Criminal Court, where 221 suspects are being tried for alleged membership in the so-called “Peace at Home Council,” a committee established by the coup-plotters to replace the government if the putsch had succeeded.

Ankara also accuses FETO of being behind a long-running campaign to overthrow the state through the infiltration of Turkish institutions, particularly the military, police, and judiciary.

AA