Sincan, Turkey | AFP | Nearly 500 people appeared in court Tuesday 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.
Forty-one of those held were marched into the court outside Ankara one-by-one in a long line in front of television cameras and the public, with each suspect held by two members of the Turkish gendarmerie and flanked by an armed soldier.
People chanted “we want the death penalty!” — which was abolished in 2004 — and some threw nooses towards the suspects.
There were also chants of “martyrs don’t die, the nation won’t be divided”. Some people threw water bottles, an AFP reporter said.
Nazan Aytop, who came to court to make sure the blood of the 249 victims of the coup “was not given in vain” said she hoped the “accused will be given the sentence they deserve.”
A total of 486 suspects have been indicted in the case and almost all — 461 — are held in custody while seven are still on the run and the remainder charged but not in jail.
During the tense opening hearing, veterans and relatives of those killed on the night of the coup bid booed the suspects’ lawyers, Dogan news agency reported.
Some lawyers hit tables to protest the “physical intervention” by some of the victims’ families as they walked past them, the agency said.
– ‘Order to bomb parliament’ –
The suspects are accused of running the coup bid from the Akinci air base northwest of the capital, which the authorities regard as the headquarters of the plotters where orders were sent out for fighter jets to bomb parliament.
They are charged with crimes ranging from murder, violating the constitution and attempting to kill President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
If convicted, they face life imprisonment.
Among the main suspects named in the indictment but still on the run is US-based Muslim cleric Fethullah Gulen, who is accused of ordering the attempted July 15, 2016 putsch.
Gulen, who is based in a secluded compound in the US state of Pennsylvania, strongly denies the charges.
Those held in custody include former air force chief Akin Ozturk who, like several suspects, is also on trial in another case related to the coup bid.