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Aggravated life sentence sought for comedian jailed over Gülen links

Comedian Atalay Demirci

An indictment drawn up by the Ankara Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office seeks an aggravated life sentence and an additional jail sentence of up to 10 years for comedian Atalay Demirci, who was jailed in the aftermath of a failed coup attempt in Turkey on July 15 due to alleged links to the faith-based Gülen movement.

Demirci is charged with attempting to overthrow the constitutional order and membership in an armed terrorist organization.

The Turkish government accuses the Gülen movement of being a terror organization and masterminding the failed coup attempt on July 15, while the movement strongly denies the allegations.

In the indictment, Twitter messages between Demirci and former Turkish football player Hakan Şükür and Enes Kanter, a Turkish basketball player in the NBA, who are also accused of having links to the Gülen movement, are cited as evidence for Demirci’s links to the movement.

The military coup attempt on July 15 killed over 240 people and wounded more than a thousand others. Immediately after the putsch, the Justice and Development Party (AKP) government along with President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan pinned the blame on the Gülen movement despite the lack of any evidence to that effect.

Although the Gülen movement strongly denies having any role in the putsch, the government accuses it of having masterminded the foiled coup. Fethullah Gülen, who inspired the movement, called for an international investigation into the coup attempt, but President Erdoğan — calling the coup attempt “a gift from God” — and the government initiated a widespread purge aimed at cleansing sympathizers of the movement from within state institutions, dehumanizing its popular figures and putting them in custody.

According to a statement from Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu on April 2, a total of 113,260 people have been detained as part of investigations into the Gülen movement since the July 15 coup attempt, while 47,155 were put into pre-trial detention.

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