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Turkey: Former presidential soldiers among dozens sentenced to life in prison for failed 2016 coup

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Soldiers stand guard outside the courthouse where 497 defendants are on trial over the failed coup.
Soldiers stand guard outside the courthouse where 497 defendants are on trial over the failed coup.   -   Copyright  Burhan Ozbilici/AP Photo
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At least 32 former Turkish soldiers have been sentenced to life in prison for their involvement in the failed 2016 coup.

A total of 497 defendants have gone on trial since 2017 for attempting to overthrow the government of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.

The court near Ankara handed 32 defendants life sentences, including former soldiers attached to the presidential guard regiment, state media reported.

The suspects were convicted on several charges, including attempting to overthrow the constitutional order.

One defendant was sentenced to 61 years, while another 106 suspects were given sentences between six and 16 years in prison, state media say. Other defendants were either acquitted or were not given prison terms.

During the coup attempt, armed forces tried to seize the military headquarters in Ankara, as well as occupying the headquarters of the state broadcaster TRT, and forcing a television broadcaster to read out a statement on behalf of the coup's organisers.

Aggravated life terms – which mean there is no chance of parole – were given to a former lieutenant colonel who forced the anchorwoman to read the statement, a former colonel accused of giving the order for the takeover of the TRT building and a former major who led a team that attempted to take over the military headquarters.

The massive trial was one of hundreds against suspected members of a network led by US-based cleric Fethullah Gülen, who Turkey has accused of orchestrating the failed attempt. Gülen, a former ally of Erdoğan, denies the accusations.

In November, 337 people, including officers and pilots, were sentenced to life imprisonment after another significant court case.

More than 250 people were killed during the failed attempt and around 2,200 others were wounded.

Thousands of anti-coup demonstrators took to the streets.

Following the coup, the Turkish government launched wide-ranging purges to remove Gülen's alleged followers from the country's administration, judiciary, and security forces.

Additional sources • AP, AFP