Turkish Court Releases Former Cadets Jailed Over 2016 Coup

Turkish soldiers guard the Silivri Prison in Istanbul, where many journalists and political prisoners held. Photo: EPA-EFE/TOLGA BOZOGLU

The former students at the Air Force Academy started to be released from prison early on Wednesday.

"The illegal punishments were cancelled by the Court of Cassation. Of course, they are cancelled. For years, we have been saying that these cadets were innocent," Omer Faruk Gergerlioglu, a human rights activist and MP from the Peoples' Democratic Party, HDP, wrote on Twitter.

Gergerlioglu accused the government of jailing the cadets for nothing.

The former cadets' families welcomed the decision, flocking to Istanbul's notorious Silivri Prison, where the former cadets and many political prisoners were held.

"My son is released [but] I cannot believe it until I see [him]," Melek Cetinkaya, mother of one of the former cadets, Furkan Cetinkaya, said. Cetinkaya has been campaigning for the cadets' release for six years.

"The Court of Cassation ruled that cadets were not aware of the [2016] coup," Cemil Cicek, a lawyer representing the former cadets, said.

Some 116 former cadets at the Air Force Academy received jail sentences following the failed coup attempt in 2016, for their alleged role in it.

Their case has since become a symbolic one, uniting families, opposition politicians and human rights activists, who all insisted on their innocence and accused President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's government of persecution.

The July 15 2016 coup attempt was stopped by loyalist soldiers and ordinary people. The plotters were accused of being part of a movement led by the exiled preacher Fethullah Gulen, who has lived in exile in the US since 1999.

Gulen has denied any link to the plot...

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