Europe

Turkey crowd taunts coup suspects at mass trial near Ankara

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Media captionSenior officers were marched past an angry crowd

Turkey has marched dozens of coup suspects past a hostile crowd at the start of their trial near Ankara.

Most of the 221 suspects are high-ranking military officers, accused of trying to oust President Recep Tayyip Erdogan last July.

Ex-air force commander Akin Ozturk was the first in a long line of defendants. There were calls for death sentences, though Turkish law does not allow that.

In the crackdown, police have arrested two teachers who are on hunger strike.

Nuriye Gulmen and Semih Ozakca reported their own arrest during the night in tweets. They are among more than 100,000 public servants sacked after the botched July 2016 military coup.

"Political branch police are trying to enter the house, they are breaking the door right now," Ms Gulmen tweeted.

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The pair have been on hunger strike for 75 days. Their lawyer said that, despite the police raid on Sunday, they had both vowed to "never give up".

"We want our jobs back! We have not surrendered and will not!" Ms Gulmen tweeted.

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Media captionNuriye Gulmen and Semih Ozakca have been on hunger strike for the last two months to protest against their dismissal by the government

President Erdogan's purge of state institutions has meant mass dismissals in the judiciary, police, universities and schools.

The mass trial at the Sincan prison complex near Ankara is the most high-profile prosecution of alleged plotters so far.

The defendants were booed by the crowd outside the purpose-built court, designed for mass trials.

The number one suspect - the Muslim cleric Fethullah Gulen - remains in the United States and denies involvement.

The charges include murdering 250 civilians during the 15 July coup attempt, after which Mr Erdogan imposed a state of emergency.

There was tight security, with snipers deployed on the prison roof on Monday.


Fury and calls for execution - the BBC's Selin Girit in Istanbul writes:

The mother of a victim of the coup attempt briefly interrupted the proceedings as the first trial started.

"Kill the murderers of my son! Give me my son back!" Saliha Arikan cried. She was soon escorted out of the courtroom.

TV pictures showed dozens of people waving Turkish flags in front of the courthouse as the defendants arrived - some brandishing nooses as a reminder of the call to bring back capital punishment.

One placard read: "For the martyrs and veterans of July 15, we want the death penalty."

Many of President Erdogan's supporters see the death penalty as an appropriate punishment for those involved in the coup plot and with Fethullah Gulen, whom Ankara accuses of masterminding it.

Turkey abolished the death penalty as part of its drive to join the European Union.

But President Erdogan has repeatedly hinted that it could be reimposed to deal with the coup plotters.

He said he would sign a decree to reintroduce it as soon as parliament votes in favour.


Mehmet Yaman, one of the angry onlookers, told Reuters news agency: "I am here to settle the score with terrorists, I am here to show that I stand by my people, my flag and my religion.

"I am here to show the terrorists that we will stand firm. I want them sentenced to death in a fair trial, I want the traitors of this country to be punished."

Image copyright AFP
Image caption Ex-air force chief Akin Ozturk was the first to be led in, past a noisy, hostile throng

In a new report, Amnesty International condemns Turkey's post-coup purge of state institutions, saying many people have been sacked arbitrarily and now face great hardship.

Mr Erdogan founded the Islamist-rooted AK Party in 2001 and on Sunday he was elected AKP leader, further entrenching his dominance of Turkish politics. There was no rival candidate at the AKP congress.

Last month Turks narrowly approved constitutional changes giving the president far-reaching powers, including the right to lead a political party.

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