Trial Begins for Alleged Turkey Coup Instigators

More than 220 people, including at least 26 former generals, have gone on trial in Turkey, accused of instigating last July’s failed military coup.

Among those on trial is General Akin Ozturk, a former air force commander.

Turkey accuses U.S.-based cleric Fethullah Gulen of fomenting the July 15, 2016, uprising that left more than 260 people dead.  Gulen has denied involvement.

On Sunday, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan formally extended the state of emergency declared after a failed coup, saying the decree will remain in place until the country finds “welfare and peace.”

Erdogan spoke Sunday in Ankara to tens of thousands of his followers and members of his ruling (AK) Justice and Development Party, which convened to reelect Erdogan, its co-founder, to its leadership post.

The state of emergency permits Erdogan and his Cabinet to issue decrees without parliamentary approval or judicial review.  

Under emergency rule, more than 47,000 people have been arrested and 100,000 others dismissed from public service for alleged connections to Gulen.

Erdogan’s announcement and his return as party chief came four weeks after Turkish voters narrowly approved a national referendum greatly expanding presidential powers.

The April 18 vote created a powerful executive presidency that largely sidelines Turkish lawmakers and the office of prime minister.  Under the constitutional amendments, Erdogan will also set the national budget and appoint judges to the high court and the constitutional court.

Critics, including prominent human rights organizations, have argued the reforms are tantamount to creating an elected dictatorship.  Erdogan and his supporters claim they will create a less cumbersome system of government better able to confront terrorism and a sluggish economy.

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