‘Coup soldiers’ give evidence in Turkish super-trial

The trial of 330 defendants allegedly involved in last year's July 15 coup attempt began Monday with some of the soldiers allegedly involved giving evidence.

Those on trial are mostly former military personnel, including Maj. Gen. Osman Unlu, the former commander of the Artillery and Missile School Command, and Brig. Gen. Murat Aygun, who previously led the 58th Artillery Brigade. Both units were based in Polatli, a town around 60 kilometers (37 miles) to the southwest of capital Ankara, on the night of the failed coup.

Abdulkadir Kahraman, a corporal based in Polatli, outlined his defense to the court.

He claimed his commander called 48 soldiers to the assembly area and told them the country was in upheaval and readied them for a possible terror attack.

Around half of the troops were later issued with weapons, he added. Kahraman said an officer named Abdulkerim Ceylan told the soldiers: You were trained for these days. If necessary, do not hesitate to use weapons.

His unit left their barracks but returned a short time later when they encountered civilian opposition.

Other soldiers in Kahraman's unit -- Ahmet Aktas and Ahmet Tamur -- also said Ceylan had instructed them to use their weapons if necessary.

Each of the 330 defendants face three aggravated life sentences on charges including attempting to overthrow the constitutional order, attempting to overthrow the government and parliament, murder and membership of a terrorist organization.

The case is being heard by Ankara's 13th Major Crimes Court in a specially constructed courtroom in Sincan high security prison, to the northwest of Ankara. The chamber can hold more than 1,500 people, including up to 720 defendants and 600 lawyers.

Chief of General Staff Gen. Hulusi Akar, who was held hostage on the night of the attempted coup, Gendarmerie commander Gen. Yasar Guler and retired Lt. Gen. Mehmet Sanver are listed as complainants in the case.

The defendants are accused of membership of the Fetullah Terror Organization (FETO) -- the group said to have been responsible for plotting the coup under the leadership of U.S.-based Fetullah Gulen, which resulted in the deaths of 248 people.

In the wake of the coup attempt, tens of thousands FETO suspects have been arrested, including many in the armed forces, police, justice system and education sector.

Source: Anadolu Agency