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Turkey coup: Alleged ringleaders face court, rowdy protesters

US-based Muslim cleric Fethullah Gulen is one of the 221 suspects blamed for the attempted 15 July putsch
Soldiers accused of being involved in 15 July coup arrive at the court in Sincan Prison, Ankara on 22 May

The trial opened on Monday of more than 220 suspects, including more than two dozen former Turkish generals, accused of being among the ringleaders of the attempted coup last year aimed at ousting president Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

Turkey blames the attempted 15 July putsch on the US-based Muslim cleric Fethullah Gulen, a claim he strongly denies. But Gulen is one of the 221 suspects named in the indictment.

'The commanders who have fostered me, and my army friends, know well that I played no part in this treacherous coup attempt. In fact, I had no idea'

- Akin Ozturk, former air force chief

Gulen - who lives in self-imposed exile in the United States - is among nine of the 221 suspects who remain on the run with the remainder appearing in court.

The suspects were paraded into the courtroom inside a prison complex in Sincan outside Ankara by security forces in front of television cameras, AFP correspondents said.

Several dozen protesters holding Turkish flags booed at the suspects, shouting "we want the death penalty" with placards saying: "For the martyrs and veterans of 15 July, we want the death penalty."

Demonstrators throw a symbolic hanging rope as Akin Ozturk, a former Turkish Air Force commander, as he arrives at court in Ankara (Reuters)

Twenty-six generals are among the charged suspects, including former air force chief Akin Ozturk and Mehmet Disli, the brother of senior ruling party lawmaker Saban Disli. Also on trial is Colonel Ali Yazici, Erdogan's former military aide.

Ozturk was the first to give his defence and denied any link to the coup bid, saying that he had devoted his life to the Turkish military and that the "accusations are for me the greatest punishment".

He added: "The commanders who have fostered me, and my army friends, know well that I played no part in this treacherous coup attempt. In fact, I had no idea."

Relatives yell at defendants

The trial is one of many being held across the country to judge the coup suspects in what is the biggest legal process of Turkey's modern history.

Relatives of coup victims shouted "martyrs don't die, the motherland cannot be divided", a refrain often used  in tribute to those killed during the events of last July. A mother of one of those killed yelled at the suspects before she was taken away by force.

The case is being heard in Turkey's largest courtroom, which was purpose-built to hear coup-related trials and has space for 1,558 people. In February it hosted the opening of the trial of 330 suspects accused of murder or attempted murder.

There was heavy security in place, with a drone flying overhead and armoured security vehicles on site, an AFP correspondent said.

Several of those on trial are accused of leading the "Peace At Home Council", the name the coup plotters are said to have given themselves on the night of the failed overthrow.

The charges against them include "using coercion and violence in an attempt to overthrow" the parliament and the Turkish government, "martyring 250 citizens" and "attempting to kill 2,735 citizens", Hurriyet daily reported on Sunday.

The attempted putsch left 248 people dead, according to the Turkish presidency, not including 24 coup-plotters killed on the night. More than 47,000 have been arrested on suspicion of links to the Gulen movement in an unprecedented crackdown under a state of emergency that was imposed in the wake of the coup.

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