ANKARA: Nearly 2,000 people have been sentenced to life in prison since the July 2016 attempted overthrow of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Turkish state media reported yesterday. State news agency Anadolu said some 1,934 suspects have been told by the courts that they will spend the rest of their life in jail. Of these, 978 people were jailed for life, Anadolu reported, while 956 were sentenced to aggravated life imprisonment, which has replaced the death penalty in Turkey and carries harsher conditions than normal life imprisonment convictions.
A total of 239 out of 289 cases opened after the failed coup have been closed. The remaining 50 include 18 in Ankara and nine in Istanbul, Anadolu added. Ankara accuses the US-based Muslim preacher Fethullah Gulen of ordering the 2016 coup attempt and refers to his movement as the “Fethullah Terrorist Organization”.
Gulen strenuously denies Turkey’s claims and followers insist his movement promotes peace and secular education, ridiculing the description of themselves as a terror group. More than 3,050 people in all have been convicted over links to Gulen, with 1,123 given different jail sentences ranging from over a year to 20 years in prison. In one trial, Gulen’s nephew Selman Gulen was sentenced to seven years and six months in jail for being a “member of an armed terrorist organization”, the agency reported yesterday.
Kutbettin Gulen, brother of the preacher living in self-imposed exile in Pennsylvania, was jailed for 10 years and six months on the same charge in October. In recent weeks, there have been multiple police raids across the country against individuals suspected of links to the Gulen movement, especially in the armed forces. The arrests of over 50,000 people and the sacking of tens of thousands of public sector employees since July 2016 has raised alarm in the West and among rights activists. But Turkish officials insist the crackdown is necessary to remove fully the influence of the Gulen movement, previously referred to as a “virus” inside state institutions.- AFP