Turkey has begun the trial of 29 police officers accused of helping the failed July coup that led to 270 deaths and launched a massive government crackdown.
Prosecutors say those on trial in Istanbul aided the plot by not carrying out their duty to protect President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s residence.
Twenty-one of the officers are facing life prison terms if convicted of attempting to overthrow the government, while the others face potential sentences of up to 15 years for membership in a terrorist group.
Turkey has blamed the coup on Fethullah Gulen, a cleric living in the United States who has denied any involvement.
Since July, Turkey’s government has arrested 40,000 people and ousted more than 100,000 civil servants, teachers, judges and others believed to by linked to Gulen or involved in the plot. In addition, the government has suspended the activities of hundreds of civic groups.
Critics, including Western governments and human rights organizations, have voiced concern that the purge has gone beyond the scope of those suspected of involvement in the coup attempt to also target organizations that oppose Erdogan’s policies.
Turkey’s government has also blamed Gulen for being behind the assassination this month of Russia’s ambassador to Turkey while he was attending an art exhibition in Ankara. The Russian government has said it will wait until the results of a joint investigation before assigning blame.
In another development, a government official says Turkey has no information to confirm a video released by the Islamic State group that purportedly shows two Turkish soldiers being burned alive.
However, Deputy Prime Minister Numan Kurtulmus on Tuesday warned journalists and social media users not to share the alleged video, saying it served terror purposes to “demoralize the Turkish public.”
Kurtulmus says: “there is no confirmed information from the Turkish Armed Forces or the National Defense Ministry concerning this video.”
Turkey restricted access to social media websites for several hours last week after the release of the video, which purports to show the killing of two soldiers captured in northern Syria.
Turkey sent ground troops into Syria in August to support Syrian opposition forces trying to clear a border area of IS militants.
By: David Kleinstein