Turkey seeks life sentences over Erdogan ‘assassination bid’

ISTANBUL: Turkish prosecutors have demanded multiple life sentences for almost 50 alleged plotters in the failed July coup charged with conspiring to assassinate President Recep Tayyip Erdogan at an Aegean holiday resort, state media said Tuesday.

Erdogan, who was staying at a hotel in the upmarket Marmaris resort with his family on the night of the July 15 coup, rushed to Istanbul and famously declared that he came within 15 minutes of being killed.

Forty-seven suspects 44 of whom are under arrest while three are on the run have been charged in the indictment with 17 different crimes including “attempt to assassinate the president”, the state-run Anadolu news agency said.

Prosecutors have asked for six life sentences for each of the suspects, among whom is an alleged “assassination team” of 37 soldiers suspected of seeking to execute the plan.

It said that the trial of the suspects will take place in Mugla, the capital of the southwestern province where Marmaris is located.

Owing to a lack of space in the town’s court, the trial will take place in the conference centre of the local chamber of commerce.

No date has yet been given for the start of the trial.

Turkish officials say the plot to kill Erdogan was a key part of the plan to seize control, a plot they say was masterminded by the US-based cleric Fethullah Gulen.

Two Turkish policemen who were helping to guard Erdogan at the hotel were killed, according to the indictment.

Accompanied by close family members including son-in-law and Energy Minister Berat Albayrak, Erdogan managed to flee Marmaris and fly by plane to Istanbul where he oversaw the suppression of the coup.

“If I had stayed 10 or 15 additional minutes there, I would have been killed or I would have been taken,” Erdogan told CNN in an interview on July 18.

Turkey has hit out at claims that the coup plotters’ failure to eliminate Erdogan raises questions about the authenticity of the plot, insisting that the president was targeted by a potentially lethal conspiracy.

Some 37,000 people have been arrested following the coup attempt in a massive crackdown on followers of Gulen that has raised international concerns.

Gulen vehemently denies being behind the plot.

Trials are expected to get underway at the end of this year or early 2017 in the biggest legal process in the country’s modern history.—AFP