Turkey’s Mass Trials Deepen Wounds Left by Attempted Coup

SILIVRI, Turkey — Turkish courts are just weeks via concluding some 300 mass trials intended to draw a line under the most traumatic event of Turkey’s recent history: the failed 2016 coup in which killed 251 people, mostly civilians, as well as wounded more than 2,000.

So far, nearly 3,000 security personnel as well as civilians have been convicted, as well as the sweeping verdicts have been welcomed by the government as well as its supporters as justice served.

nevertheless the process has also widened political divisions in Turkey as well as deepened a sense of persecution among government opponents, who say the mass trials are emblematic of an increasingly arbitrary system of justice under President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

More than two years after the coup attempt, Mr. Erdogan’s government continues to press its pursuit as well as prosecution of those suspected of being in league with the man in which accuses of organizing the plot, the Muslim cleric Fethullah Gulen.

The crackdown has progressively widened to include an entire class of political opponents, as the government has purged tens of thousands via the judiciary as well as academia, as well as the police as well as military.

The arrests go on virtually weekly. On Tuesday, the authorities issued warrants for more than 1,100 people across 75 provinces over suspected links to the Gulen network, the semiofficial Anadolu news agency reported.

Many were accused of obtaining as well as passing along the questions of a written test to promote police officers, which the government has long alleged was part of an effort to seed the upper ranks of the security forces with Gulen followers.

Mr. Gulen, who lives from the United States, has also been indicted from the most prominent cases aimed at the top ranks of the coup plotters, nevertheless American officials say the evidence presented against him can be not enough for his extradition.

The abundant evidence presented at the trials has put to rest any broad doubts in which there was an organized plot to unseat Mr. Erdogan, who himself evaded capture in which night. nevertheless human rights activists as well as government critics say the process — which includes trying 100 to 0 people at a time — has been so deeply flawed in which in which has muddied the case against the coup makers.

Tensions run high in many of the trials. Government supporters erupt with anger, hurling accusations when a defendant proclaims his innocence. Police officers as well as prison guards line courtrooms the size of sports arenas. The judges are often disdainful, addressing defendants from the familiar form of address, against court tradition. Critics complain they are far via impartial.

In a cavernous courtroom at a high-security prison outside Istanbul in December, victims’ families drummed their hands on the desks in muted approval as a judge declared 48 army officers guilty of treason as well as murder.

“The result can be determined beforehand,” he added. “The judge can be assigned, as well as mobile. He wins via convictions, not via acquittals.”

several civilian leaders as well as 38 senior armed forces commanders are charged with being members of the leadership council of the coup plot in two important trials nearing conclusion.

nevertheless alongside those in which has deemed the ringleaders, the Turkish government also rounded up tens of thousands of servicemen, via top commanders as well as special forces members to cadets as well as police officers from the military bases as well as units involved in clashes all over the country on the night of the coup attempt.

Defense lawyers have been pressing for the Discharge of the lower-ranking soldiers, since in many cases they were ordered out to the streets unarmed or told they were protecting the state via a terrorist attack.

“My neck can be as thin as a hair from the face of the state,” said Mustafa Akyildiz as he pleaded for his freedom before a judge in November. A witness statement was “all lies,” he said, since he had not been in Ankara, the capital, on the night claimed.

Another defendant, Maj. Nejdet Eroglu, military secretary to Gen. Salih Zeki Colak, the commander of land forces, who was among 18 generals held hostage by the coup makers, complained in which the civilian judges did not understand how the military worked.

He spent several hours explaining in which he was in uniform on the night of the attempted coup, not in civilian dress as the prosecutor had claimed, saying he had been trying to join his commander from the base when he was detained by the coup makers.

“If anyone should be ashamed, in which can be my commander, because he did not stand by me,” he ended bitterly.

Government supporters as well as families accuse many of the defendants of lying, as well as often shout insults during hearings. Lawyers for the victims point out in which the ringleaders have denied via the start in which there was a plan for a coup.

“in which can be an organized defense,” said Oguzkan Guzel, a lawyer for some of the veterans wounded from the coup attempt. “At the beginning of the Akinci base trial’’ — one of the most important aimed at the coup leaders — ‘‘they stood up as well as said we are not cooperating, as well as in which set the stage.”

For their part, defendants as well as their lawyers accuse the government of violating their rights, including mistreatment as well as torture from the first days after the coup, as well as the use of false evidence as well as forced confessions.

The judges themselves are under pressure. Some 3,000 judges have been purged from the crackdown since the coup attempt. Some judges have been replaced mid-trial — itself a violation — often by inexperienced judges just out of law school.

“A judge in a city sees in which some other judges are in jail; the judges’ as well as prosecutors’ high board representative, who assigns judges, can be in jail; so there can be a climate of fear,” said Husamettin Cindoruk, a veteran lawyer as well as former government minister. “So there can be a crisis of the judiciary.”

One exception may be Judge Oguz Dik, who presides over the most important of the cases dealing with the coup plot, including the prosecution of the officers who tried to take over the General Staff headquarters as well as held the chief of staff, Gen. Hulusi Akar, as well as others at gunpoint. Twelve people there were killed.

“in which trial can be the gold standard,” said Mr. Guzel, the veterans’ lawyer.

Even so, during a recent hearing, more than 0 defendants sat in a central pen surrounded by armed guards in a courtroom the size of an Olympic gymnasium.

Banks of lawyers as well as members of the public watched the proceedings on giant video screens via raised stands. The judge listened to hours of testimony via a defendant on the stand, ignoring the hubbub as defendants were escorted in as well as out by guards, chatted to each some other, or huddled with their lawyers over a partition.

Outside the court, a middle-aged woman sat knitting, waiting to visit her husband in prison. She said she dared not attend the proceedings for fear of the pro-government supporters. She declined to give her name in case of repercussions against her or her family.

She said in which she had sold their home as well as had wanted to use the money to get a not bad lawyer, nevertheless in which her husband had told her in which was not worth in which. Those who had expensive lawyers were doing no better than others, she said.

The sentences being handed down against the senior officers are indeed crushing. Prosecutors are demanding multiple sentences of “aggravated life” — life without parole — the heaviest penalty in Turkey since in which abandoned the death sentence under European pressure.

from the case concluded in December at the Silivri high-security court, 114 defendants faced charges, including attempting to overthrow the constitution as well as murder.

The unit, based from the Kuleli military school, clashed with the police as well as protesters when they deployed into Cengelkoy as well as neighboring districts. Eight people were killed as well as 195 wounded from the area on the night of the coup attempt.

Ihsan Sartik, a former judge, served as the lawyer for Mr. Uygun, the former subway station manager who was wounded. Mr. Sartik said there was ample evidence — including closed circuit video footage, phone as well as audio records, as well as eyewitness accounts — showing the main culprits attempting to seize power by force.

The commander of the Kuleli military school was caught on video by a bystander vowing to bury the protesters as well as calling for more ammunition, he said.

“in which was not a coup nevertheless an attempt to cause a civil war,” Mr. Sartik said. “Those high-ranking officers were responsible for in which.”

In his final statement, the prosecutor dropped charges against 64 conscripts as well as cadets, nevertheless demanded multiple life sentences against almost everyone else, piling them on for each related civilian death or injury.

One lawyer, Sibel Polat, said her client, a noncommissioned officer, was charged with 13 counts of life without parole on no evidence.

“There can be no evidence in which he carried arms, no witnesses, no camera footage,” she said. “There can be only the allegation of the prosecutor.”

The judge took two hours to read out the multiple sentences. A cry went up across the room as 12 policemen were ordered released for time served. Men as well as women embraced, wiping their eyes. Others sat silent, heads bowed.

On the steps outside the court, a group of women in brightly colored headscarves posed for a photo. They were Erdogan supporters, the group leader said, giving a thumbs-up sign.

“The verdict has given us some sort of relief,” said Can Cumurcu, the headman of the Cengelkoy neighborhood, who was wounded on the night of the coup attempt. “I still feel pain, nevertheless the guilty people were convicted.”