A Turkish court has handed down life sentences to 72 defendants for their roles in clashes on an Istanbul bridge that led to the deaths of dozens of people, including a key aide of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, during an abortive coup two years ago.
The court on Thursday convicted the men of deliberately killing civilians who heeded a call from President Erdogan to challenge the coup plotters on the bridge across the Bosphorus Strait in July 2016.
More verdicts are expected to be issued for 71 other defendants in the case.
Turkey witnessed a coup attempt when a faction of the Turkish military declared that the government of President Erdogan was no more in charge of the country. However, over the course of two days, the putsch was suppressed.
Thirty-four civilians and seven coup plotters were killed on Bosphorus Bridge. Among the fatalities were Erdogan’s campaign manager Erol Olcak and his 16-year-old son Abdullah, who were killed when soldiers involved in the coup attempt opened fire on protesters.
The bridge was later renamed by the Turkish government as July 15 Martyrs’ Bridge.
The Turkish government accuses the U.S.-based cleric Fethullah Gulen of having orchestrated the attempted coup. Gulen, a former Erdogan ally turned arch-foe, has denied the allegation.
Ankara has called on the U.S. to extradite Gulen, but the demand has not been taken heed of.
Tens of thousands of people have been arrested in Turkey on suspicion of having links to Gulen and the failed coup. More than 140,000 others, including military staff, civil servants and journalists have been sacked or suspended from work over the same accusations.
The international community and rights groups have been highly critical of the Turkish president over the massive dismissals and the crackdown.
This article has been adapted from its original source.
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