A court in the Turkish capital handed down life sentences yesterday to 74 former military officers who commanded the military helicopters that killed civilians and bombed strategic locations in the terrorist group FETÖ’s 2016 coup attempt
A trial of helicopter pilots and their commanders who were involved in brutal attacks during the 2016 coup attempt, ended yesterday in the capital Ankara. A total 56 defendants were sentenced to aggravated life imprisonment, while another 18 defendants were handed down life sentences for their involvement in the coup attempt perpetrated by military infiltrators of the Gülenist Terror Group (FETÖ). Some 152 suspects have been on trial since the coup attempt on July 15, 2016 was quelled. They were personnel of the Land Aviation Command of the Turkish Army, the main department of the Turkish Armed Forces (TSK), which serves as the helicopter command. A total of 251 people were killed, and thousands of others were injured when officers aligned with FETÖ tried to seize power at the cost of the lives of civilians who took to the streets to confront them.
Those tried in yesterday’s trial were accused of killing 28 civilians and inflicting injuries on 276 others due to shots fired from military helicopters.
Defendants had either personally commanded the helicopters or ordered them to attack places that putschists viewed critical to seizing power. Helicopters fired at the headquarters of the National Intelligence Directorate as well as the Office of Chief of General Staff, the army’s main headquarters during the 2016 coup attempt. They dropped bombs and fired assault rifles on civilians who filled the streets around those buildings in a peaceful bid to stop the coup attempt. Defendants also transported other putschist troops around the capital and took the top military brass, including then Chief of General Staff Hulusi Akar, to Akıncı Air Base after they were taken hostage by putschists. Akar and others were held for hours at the military base, which was the command center of putschists before they were released in the early hours of July 15, 2016.
Sadullah Abra, a major and helicopter pilot, was among those with the heaviest sentences. He was handed down 25 instances of aggravated life imprisonment, apart from 3,536 years. He piloted a Cobra helicopter on the night of July 15, 2016, and was the pilot who asked the fellow members of his unit to shoot at police trying to stop the putschists. “Fire at anything with a blue lamp on it, shoot the police!” Abra could be heard saying over the radio to fellow helicopter pilots. Abra’s wife was also convicted in a separate trial regarding FETÖ.
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The trial was among 289 opened following the 2016 coup attempt and was one of about three dozens not concluded until yesterday.
Since the foiled coup attempt, hundreds of military officers and civilians who took part in the bid have been brought to justice. Tens of thousands of people linked to FETÖ were also detained or arrested in the aftermath of the attempt. In the concluded trials, more than 1,950 defendants, ranging from generals to low-ranking officers were sentenced to life and more than 3,100 defendants received varying prison terms for their role in the coup attempt.
The attempt in 2016 came one month before a planned purge of suspected FETÖ infiltrators in the military and was the bloodiest attempt to overthrow the government by the terrorist group, which used its infiltrators in the police and judiciary in 2013 in an attempt to seize power in two separate coup bids.