TURKEY

Key trial of failed July 15 coup attempt begins in Ankara

KEY TRIAL OF FAILED JULY 15 COUP ATTEMPT BEGINS IN ANKARA

Nearly 500 FETO suspects, including generals and military pilots, went on trial Tuesday in Turkey accused of leading failed July 15 coup attempt and carrying out attacks from an air base in Ankara.

An Ankara court on Tuesday began the trial of 486 key suspects accused of taking part in last year's coup attempt, which martyred 250 people.

The suspects -- 461 of them currently in prison, 18 released under judicial supervision, and seven fugitives -- are on trial over their alleged actions centered on a military base in Ankara, then known as the 4th Akıncı Main Jet Base, which was used as a headquarters by some pro-coup soldiers.

Fighter jets taking off that night from Akıncı -- renamed Murted after the coup bid -- bombed several key locations in the capital, including the parliament building. Loyal Turkish officers were also held hostage at the base.

Among the defendants on trial are two fugitives: Fetullah Gülen, seen as the main coup-plotter, who has lived in U.S. state of Pennsylvania in self-imposed exile since 1999, and is being sought for extradition, along with Adil Öksüz, another alleged major coup perpetrator.

Former air force commander Akin Ozturk and other defendants stationed at the Akinci air base, on the outskirts of the capital Ankara, are accused of directing the coup and bombing key government buildings, including the parliament.

Many of the 486 suspects face life terms in prison for crimes that include violating the Constitution, murder, attempting to assassinate the president and attempting to overthrow the government.

The trial is one of dozens underway in Turkey in relation to the coup attempt on July 15, 2016, that resulted in 249 deaths. Some 30 coup-plotters were also killed. The government says the coup was carried out by followers of Fethullah Gülen who is ringleader of Fetullah Terror Organization.

The government says the coup-plotters used Akıncı air base as their headquarters. Turkey's military chief Gen. Hulusi Akar and other commanders were held captive for several hours at the base on the night of the coup.

On Tuesday, a group of 41 defendants were paraded from their jail to a courthouse that was built especially at a prison complex to try the coup plotters. They were handcuffed, with two paramilitary police officers on each arm, and protected by armed special force officers.

Özturk, the former air force commander, is also on trial in a separate case, accused of being a ring-leader of the coup.

The pilots who bombed state institutions during the night of the coup bid are also standing trial.

The trial is set to continue through Aug. 19.

The suspects are accused of being members of a terrorist organization, attempting to assassinate the president, trying to overthrow parliament, directing an armed terrorist group, damaging public property, endangering public safety, damaging houses of worship, and offenses against civil liberty.

The families of those killed or wounded during the coup attempt staged a protest Tuesday. Some threw ropes toward the defendants, demanding that the government reinstate the death penalty and that those convicted be hanged. Others threw stones or tried to break through police lines to reach the suspects, shouting "Murderers!"

The Fetullah Terrorist Organization (FETO) and its U.S.-based leader Fetullah Gulen plotted the coup attempt, which martyred 250 people and injured nearly 2,200 others.

FETO is also accused of being behind a long-running campaign to overthrow the state through the infiltration of Turkish institutions, particularly the military, police, and judiciary.

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