23 May 2017

Turkey military coup suspects go on trial

9:20 am on 23 May 2017

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

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Ex-air force commander Akin Ozturk was at the head of the line. Photo: AFP

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.

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.

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.

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."

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.

American ambassador summoned after Washington protest turned violent

A diplomatic spat has developed between Turkey and the United States over a violent demonstration in Washington last week during a visit by the Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

The Turkish foreign ministry has summoned the American ambassador to protest at what it said was the unprofessional behaviour of US police officers.

They intervened after Turkish bodyguards clashed with pro-Kurdish protesters outside the Turkish ambassador's residence.

Video footage showed the bodyguards chasing and kicking the demonstrators.

Turkey is demanding a full investigation but the State Department has labelled the conduct of the Turkish security staff "deeply disturbing".

- BBC

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