People react after taking military position on the Bosphorus Bridge in Istanbul. File photo: AFP
ISTANBUL, Turkey – A Turkish court on Thursday handed life prison terms to dozens of suspects in a trial over the deadly clashes on an Istanbul bridge during the July 15, 2016 failed coup, state media reported.
The bridge across the Bosphorus in Istanbul – now renamed the July 15 Martyrs’ Bridge – was the scene of bloody fighting between Erdogan’s supporters and renegade soldiers seeking to oust the government.
The court in Silivri outside Istanbul sentenced 72 suspects, including former lieutenant colonel Turgay Odemis, to life in jail on charges of “attempting to overthrow the constitutional order,” the Anadolu news agency reported.
The judge handed 22 suspects jail terms of 17 years and seven months each, and five suspects 15 years each on charges of “aiding” an attempt to overthrow the constitutional order, according to the news agency.
Thirty-four civilians and seven coup plotters were killed on the bridge, according to the indictment.
In addition, 12 suspects were given life terms for “premeditated murder” in the case over the killing of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s campaign manager Erol Olcok and his 16-year-old son Abdullah Tayyip.
Both were killed when soldiers opened fire on protesters on the bridge. Olcok had named his son after Erdogan and his predecessor as president, Abdullah Gul.
Erdogan attended the funeral of the Olcoks and others two days after the coup bid, weeping openly in a rare show of emotion.
Hundreds of court cases are in progress across the country against the alleged perpetrators of the coup, with dozens of life sentences already handed to the top suspects.
The latest court verdict comes after Erdogan secured an outright victory in June 24 presidential elections with sweeping new powers.
The government has launched a vast crackdown on coup plotters in the wake of the coup bid under the state of emergency, with Erdogan vowing to purge of state institutions to clean the “virus” of US-based Muslim preacher Fethullah Gulen.
Ankara blames Gulen for masterminding the coup attempt but he has denied any role.
Tens of thousands of people have been arrested since the failed putsch, accused of links to the Gulen movement and many other public sector employees have been sacked or suspended.
In his election campaign, Erdogan promised to lift the state of emergency which has now lasted almost two years. The state of emergency's latest extension is due to elapse on July 18.