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Turkey hands life sentences to 104 suspects over 2016 coup attempt

Turkey’s former air force chief of staff lieutenant general Hasan Huseyin Demirarslan (File photo)

A court in western Turkey has handed down life sentences to 104 people convicted of involvement in a coup attempt two years ago.

The court in the city of Izmir issued the rulings on Monday, saying the former military personnel had been “attempting to overthrow the constitutional order.”

The life sentences were of the “aggravated” nature, which Turkey uses instead of the death penalty and carries harsher conditions than normal life sentences.

Among those sentenced to life were lieutenant general Hasan Huseyin Demirarslan, who served as former air force chief of staff, and major general Memduh Hakbilen, ex-Aegean army command chief of staff.

The suspects are believed to have played a key role in the July 15, 2016 coup attempt against President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. The coup, which left more than 260 people killed, including 24 coup plotters, triggered a large-scale crackdown in Turkey, with over 200,000 either arrested or discharged from their jobs over their role in the coup.

In its Monday rulings, the court in Izmir also issued 20-year jail sentences for 21 other suspects for “assisting the assassination of the president” as well as sentences between seven years and six months and 10 years and six months for 31 suspects for being a member of an armed terror group.

Erdogan said after the botched putsch that he had been the target of a terror plot when he was on holiday in the Aegean resort of Marmaris with his family on the eve of the coup attempt.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan (Photo by AFP)

Most of those targeted in Turkey’s post-coup crackdown are designated by authorities as members of an outlawed organization run by Fethullah Gulen, a cleric based in the United States whom Turkey blames for the coup. Gulen denies any involvement.

The crackdown, which has been reinforced by rounds of emergency law, has been widely criticized by Western governments and rights campaigners. Erdogan says the action is needed to prevent similar moves against the rule of law in the future.

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