A court in Ankara today sentenced to 79 life sentences the 11 pilots who bombed the Turkish capital during the failed coup d'état in 2016, causing the death of 68 people as well as several civilians considered as instigators.
The trial, which began in August 2017, involves a total of 475 defendants, including 25 generals and four high-ranking members of the Islamist brotherhood of preacher Fethullah Gülen, who has been in exile in the United States for 20 years and is accused by Ankara of the coup.
The trial, the largest ever held against participants in the coup, brought together the military and civilians present on the night of the coup at Akinci airbase near Ankara, from where the fighters that bombed the city took off.
Of the accused, 365 are in custody, 104 are on bail and six are wanted, including Gülen himself, whose extradition Turkey has repeatedly requested.
The maximum sentences imposed so far, on a reading that may last hours, are 79 life sentences for the total of 77 people killed in Ankara (68 during the bombing and 9 at other times), plus two for attempting to overthrow the constitutional order and for attempting to assassinate the president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
Other military personnel are receiving lesser sentences and four civilians, considered high religious officials in the brotherhood of Gülen, have also received dozens of life sentences as the court considered that they were the ones who took command of the Akinci base on the night of the coup.
The reading of the sentence takes place in Sincan prison in Ankara, where security measures are extreme today.
In the 6,000 pages of the indictment, the Prosecutor's Office charges the defendants with murder, violation of the Constitution, attempt to assassinate the president, attempt to overthrow the government, leading an armed terrorist organisation, occupying military bases and deprivation of liberty.
Gülen, a close ally of Erdogan and his party, the Islamist AKP, is accused of having created a "parallel state" by infiltrating his followers into key positions in the administration, justice, army and police.
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