An İstanbul court has handed down aggravated life sentences to 10 defendants, including former police chiefs, over a 2012 crisis in the security bureaucracy that started when Hakan Fidan, undersecretary of the National Intelligence Organization (MİT), was asked by a prosecutor to testify on government contacts with Kurdish militants, the state-run Anadolu news agency reported on Wednesday.
Former police chiefs Yurt Atayün, Ali Fuat Yılmazer, Kazım Aksoy and Erol Demirhan were among 10 of the 18 defendants who on Wednesday were given aggravated life sentences for “attempting to overthrow the government” by the İstanbul 23rd High Criminal Court.
The court also sentenced defendant Mustafa Gökkılıç, a journalist, to eight years, four months behind bars on charges of “membership in a terrorist organization” and “violating the confidentiality of an investigation.”
On Feb. 12, 2012 now-jailed former prosecutor Sadrettin Sarıkaya, who was leading an İstanbul investigation into the Kurdistan Communities Union (KCK), the alleged urban wing of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), summoned MİT chief Fidan among others who were involved in talks with the PKK to answer questions in the probe.
Then-President Abdullah Gül told Fidan to testify, but then-Prime Minister and current President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan ordered him not to appear, Turkish media reports said.
Erdoğan then put Fidan under legal protection through the passage by his ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) of a law that required permission from the prime minister for legal action against MİT members.
The president, who calls Fidan his “secret box,” later interpreted the February crisis as an attempt against him by the Gülen movement, a faith-based group inspired by the teachings of Muslim preacher Fethullah Gülen.
The Turkish government’s ongoing crackdown on the Gülen movement, which it designates as a terrorist organization, was launched following corruption investigations in late 2013 that implicated Erdoğan’s close circle and culminated in the aftermath of a failed coup on July 15, 2016.
Although both Gülen and his followers deny any involvement in the abortive putsch and in any terrorist activities, a total of 622,646 people have been investigated and 301,932 have been detained, while 96,000 others have been jailed due to alleged links to the group since the failed coup, according to latest Interior Ministry data. The data further shows that there are currently 25,467 people in Turkey’s prisons who were jailed on alleged links to the faith-based movement.