Turkey began a mass trial for some two hundred accused coup plotters on Monday, including a number of military officers. The defendants were marched into the courtroom past demonstrators who called for their execution.
Reuters cites Turkish media reports that 1,500 security personnel were deployed for the trial, equipped with armored vehicles, snipers, and a surveillance drone. The 221 defendants include over 200 military personnel, over half of them officers holding ranks from captain to general. Imam Fethullah Gulen, who lives in the United States and is accused of masterminding the coup by the Turkish government, will be tried in absentia. The trial is set to last until June 16.
“The defendants were paraded into a purpose-built courthouse one by one, and each suspect was handcuffed and flanked by two security guards,” Sky News reports. “They were surrounded by dozens of protesters who waved Turkish flags and brandished signs demanding they receive the death penalty.”
“We want the death penalty, we don’t want them to be fed and housed here. We want these traitors to be buried without any flag,” said one demonstrator quoted by Al-Jazeera.
“I am here to settle the score with terrorists, I am here to show that I stand by my people, my flag and my religion,” said another. “I am here to show the terrorists that we will stand firm. I want them sentenced to death in a fair trial, I want the traitors of this country to be punished.”
Inside the courtroom, Reuters reports the families of the over 240 people killed during the July coup attempt “screamed at the defendants,” with one woman sobbing, “kill these traitors, the murderers of my son,” before fainting.
The Lebanese Daily Star wrote that as the “tense” trial got underway, relatives of the coup victims charged, “martyrs don’t die, the motherland cannot be divided,” a slogan seen as a tribute to those who died during the coup attempt.
The indictments, which run to 2,000 pages in length, include charges of “violating the constitution,” “using coercion and violence in an attempt to overthrow” the government, “martyring 250 citizens,” and “attempting to kill 2,735 citizens.”
The first defendant put on trial is former General Akin Ozturk of the Turkish air force. Ozturk has claimed he was “not the person who planned or led the coup,” and claimed he has no information about who did, although he said he agreed with the Turkish government that followers of Fethullah Gulen were responsible. The Daily Star notes that Ozturk’s appearance, “dressed crisply in a black sweater” and holding a blue folder, was a sharp contrast with images of him beaten and bandaged after his capture.