Turkey opens trial of almost 500 defendants over failed coup

Turkish Police Detained Almost 600 People Last Week Over Suspected Links to FETO

Almost 500 people appeared in court yesterday in the biggest trial yet of suspects from Turkey's failed coup, facing charges of conspiring to oust the government from an air base seen as the plotters' hub.

Numerous suspects could face life in prison if convicted, according to The Associated Press.

Most of the suspects are former military personnel at the Akinci Air Base, which was used as the command center by plotters during the foiled coup.

In the aftermath of their botched attempt, thousands of people have been arrested, many suspected of having links to Fethullah Gulen, a cleric living in exile in the US.

Gulen has denied any involvement in the coup attempt, and Turkish prosecutors have not presented any evidence suggesting Gulen gave a direct order to initiative a government overthrow.

Following the July 15 coup, Turkey has arrested some 50,000 people and sacked or suspended more than 150,000 in the military, civil service and private sector as part of a sweeping crackdown that has anxious rights groups and some Western nations. Prosecutors say the base was a headquarters for pro-coup soldiers. Then, it suspended or fired about 150,000 people from their jobs, NPR's Peter Kenyon reported, and arrested more than 50,000.

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Chief of Staff General Hulusi Akar and other senior commanders were held hostage at the base during the coup attempt, before they were freed on the morning on July 16.

Theology lecturer Adil Oksuz, whom Turkish officials allege was the so-called "imam" of the plot, is accused coordinating the action on the ground in Turkey with Gulen.

Fighter planes taking off from the base on in July 2016 bombed several locations in Ankara, including the parliament building.

The failed coup killed some 249 civilians and the government declared a state of emergency.

Although Turkey abolished the death penalty in 2004, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan proposed a referendum on the issue in his speech after narrowly winning a vote to expand his powers in April.

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