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Retired general sentenced to 7 years in prison in coup retrial

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A Turkish court has handed down a prison sentence of almost seven years to a retired general who was retried for allegedly taking part in a coup plot against the Justice and Development Party (AKP) government, the private DHA news agency reported.

Retired Gen. Çetin Doğan, who is currently in jail as part of another trial, was among more than 300 military officers convicted in 2012 of taking part in an alleged coup plot named Balyoz, or Sledgehammer, which aimed to topple the government of then-prime minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.

The 2003 coup plot was revealed to the public when the now-closed Taraf daily published the details in a 2010 report. As part of the plot, the military is claimed to have planned drastic measures to foment unrest in the country in order to remove the AKP from power.

In September 2012 an İstanbul court sentenced 236 of the 365 Sledgehammer defendants to prison, while the rest were acquitted. Three retired generals were sentenced to life in prison on charges of “attempting to overthrow the government,” but the sentences were later reduced to 20 years because of the “incomplete attempt at staging a coup,” the court said. All 236 defendants, including the generals, were released immediately after the top court’s decision, and they were acquitted of all charges in March 2015. However, prosecutors appealed the acquittal of seven defendants including Doğan on the grounds that their acquittal contravened the law.

The Supreme Court of Appeals overturned the acquittals in June 2021, prompting a retrial.

The retrial of the seven defendants was concluded at an İstanbul court on Friday when Doğan and the other retired generals were sentenced to prison on charges of “conspiring to commit a crime.” His co-defendants got five years, while Doğan was sentenced to almost seven.

In its decision in June 2021, the top appeals court said voice recordings belonging to the defendants show they agreed on the establishment of national government following the allegedly planned coup and the detention of ruling party politicians. The court said the defendants should be charged with “conspiring to commit a crime,” which requires a prison sentence of between three and 12 years under the Turkish Penal Code (TCK).

Defendants in the Sledgehammer trial claim, however, that the documents referring to the alleged coup attempt are forged. One of the arguments cited by the defendants as evidence is the use of the Calibri font in documents dated 2003. This font, however, was only introduced by Microsoft in 2007.

Doğan was sent to prison in the summer of 2021 after the Supreme Court of Appeals upheld the life sentences handed down to 14 defendants including Doğan, who were convicted and sentenced in 2018 for their roles in the post-modern coup of Feb. 28, 1997 following the issuance of a military memorandum.

The defendants were accused of “forming a criminal association to overthrow the government of the Republic of Turkey.”

Earlier this month, President Erdoğan pardoned three former generals who were imprisoned last year due to their role in the Feb. 28 military intervention. Doğan was not among those who were pardoned for reasons of health despite calls from his family for his release due to his deteriorating health in prison.

One of the convicted former generals, Vural Avar, 85, died in his sleep in December. Avar was being held in Ankara’s Sincan Prison despite health problems.

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