A Turkish court sentenced hundreds of military and civilian personnel at an air base to life prison sentences Thursday, proclaiming them guilty of involvement in the 2016 failed coup attempt against President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's government. A total of 475 defendants, including some generals and fighter jet pilots at the Akinci air base, on the outskirts of the capital, Ankara, had been on trial for the past three years, accused of directing the coup and bombing key government buildings, including a section of Turkey's parliament. The massive trial was one of two main trials against suspected members of a network led by US-based cleric Fethullah Gulen, whom Ankara accuses of orchestrating the failed attempt.
The court convicted four men—civilians accused of liaising between Gulen’s movement and some military officers—of crimes against the state, attempts to kill the president as well as 77 counts of murder, and sentenced them to 79 separate “aggravated” life sentences without the possibility of parole. Fifteen officers, including one-star generals, were also sentenced to the same term. A total of 318 other defendants were also sentenced to life prison terms Busra Taskiran insisted that her fiance, Yunus Kilicaslan, who was a trainee F-16 pilot at the time, was wrongly accused. Kilicaslan and other trainee pilots were “convicted today for life despite not taking part in the coup attempt, despite not taking part in any activity that night, despite fighting (against the coup) by locking themselves in a room,” she tells the AP.
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