Almost 500 go on trial in Turkey’s biggest coup case

Forty-one of those held were marched into the court outside Ankara one-by-one in a long line in front of television cameras and the public, with each suspect held by two members of the Turkish gendarmerie and flanked by an armed soldier.

长沙夜网

People chanted “we want the death penalty!” — which was abolished in 2004 — and some threw nooses towards the suspects.

There were also chants of “martyrs don’t die, the nation won’t be divided”. Some people threw water bottles, an AFP reporter said.

Nazan Aytop, who came to court to make sure the blood of the 249 victims of the coup “was not given in vain” said she hoped the “accused will be given the sentence they deserve.”

Related reading

A total of 486 suspects have been indicted in the case and almost all — 461 — are held in custody while seven are still on the run and the remainder charged but not in jail.

During the tense opening hearing, veterans and relatives of those killed on the night of the coup bid booed the suspects’ lawyers, Dogan news agency reported.

Some lawyers hit tables to protest the “physical intervention” by some of the victims’ families as they walked past them, the agency said.

– ‘Order to bomb parliament’ –

The suspects are accused of running the coup bid from the Akinci air base northwest of the capital, which the authorities regard as the headquarters of the plotters where orders were sent out for fighter jets to bomb parliament.

They are charged with crimes ranging from murder, violating the constitution and attempting to kill President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

If convicted, they face life imprisonment.

Among the main suspects named in the indictment but still on the run is US-based Muslim cleric Fethullah Gulen, who is accused of ordering the attempted July 15, 2016 putsch.

Gulen, who is based in a secluded compound in the US state of Pennsylvania, strongly denies the charges.

Those held in custody include former air force chief Akin Ozturk who, like several suspects, is also on trial in another case related to the coup bid.

Related reading

Another chief suspect is theology lecturer Adil Oksuz, whom Turkish officials accuse of being the so-called “imam” of the plot by coordinating the action on the ground in Turkey with Gulen.

Businessman Kemal Batmaz is meanwhile accused of assisting Oksuz.

Oksuz was detained following the coup’s defeat, but was subsequently released and is now on the run.

Batmaz led the line of suspects into court wearing a cream shirt with black trousers followed by Ozturk wearing a grey shirt and black trousers.

Chief of Staff General Hulusi Akar and other senior commanders were held hostage at the base during the coup attempt before they were freed on the morning on July 16.

The base was seen as the coup plot headquarters where commands were given for the F-16 fighter jets to attack and fly them above the capital.

The Turkish parliament was bombed three times by F-16s.

Paramilitary police and special force members escort outside the courthouse as the trial of 486 suspects, including a number of generals and F-16 pilots (AAP)AAP

Largest courtroom

The trial is taking place in Turkey’s largest courtroom established inside a prison complex in Sincan to hear coup-related trials and has space for more than 1,500 people.

The deputy leader of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP), Hayati Yazici, told reporters the party made a request to be a co-litigant in the trial.

“Of course these putschists will be given the punishment they deserve,” Yazici added.

Erdogan, Akar and the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) also applied to be litigants, Turkish media said.

The courtroom has previously hosted mass trials related to the coup bid including one which opened in February of 330 suspects accused of murder or attempted murder.

And in May, 221 suspects were put on trial accused of being the ringleaders of the failed coup.

There was heavy security including 1,130 security personnel inside and outside the courtroom, according to state-run news agency Anadolu, as well as snipers, armoured security vehicles and a drone.

The trial is one of several held across Turkey judging coup suspects, in the largest legal process in the country’s modern history.

Over 50,000 people have been arrested over alleged links to Gulen in a wide-scale crackdown under the state of emergency imposed following the coup.

Trump ‘weighed in’ on son’s statement, White House says

White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders said Trump had “weighed in, offered suggestions, like any father would do.

长沙夜网

Trump’s personal intervention, first reported by The Washington Post, casts doubt on claims he knew nothing about a meeting during the 2016 campaign that is now central to a federal investigation.

It also paints a picture of a president acutely aware of the scandal — and determined to manage it down to a minute level.

Allies fear that such a level of involvement, if proven, could put the Republican billionaire leader in legal jeopardy.

0:00 Trump Jr’s statement on the Russian lawyer meeting Share Trump Jr’s statement on the Russian lawyer meeting

Politically, it will only intensify allegations that the White House is trying to cover up connections with a foreign government accused of trying to tilt the November election in Trump’s favor.

“This was… unnecessary,” one presidential adviser told the Post on condition of anonymity.

“Now someone can claim he’s the one who attempted to mislead. Somebody can argue the president is saying he doesn’t want you to say the whole truth.”

Trump’s lawyer Jay Sekulow dismissed the report as “misinformed.”

Emails show that Trump’s eldest son Donald Jr, his son-in-law Jared Kushner and his then campaign manager Paul Manafort met Kremlin-connected officials in June 2016 in the hope of getting dirt on Democratic rival Hillary Clinton.

On the other side of the table were government-connected lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya, Russian real estate player Ike Kaveladze and Rinat Akhmetshin, who has denied long-standing allegations that he works for Russian intelligence.

A British middleman pitched the meeting as an opportunity for the Trump campaign to obtain “very high level and sensitive information” as “part of Russia and its government’s support” for the now president.

In a statement — allegedly dictated by Trump on Air Force One coming back from a Group of 20 summit in Hamburg, Germany — Don Jr said the meeting “primarily discussed a program about the adoption of Russian children.”

Trump’s lawyers had claimed he was not involved in the meeting or its aftermath, and the Republican billionaire had rushed to his son’s defense, accusing the media of a political “witch hunt.”

One Republican congressman, Lee Zeldin of New York, told CNN: “I would be really interested in knowing what the president knew at that time.”

Twitter ‘only way to get truth out’ 

Possible Trump-Russia collaboration is the subject of several Congressional investigations as well as a sweeping federal probe led by special counsel and former FBI director Robert Mueller.

The scandal has overshadowed Trump’s first six months in office and threatened to ensnare his whole administration in a legal thicket.

In recent weeks, the scandal has taken a back seat to White House chaos amid the departure of Trump’s chief of staff Reince Priebus, his short-lived communications director Anthony Scaramucci and press secretary Sean Spicer.

This latest drip-drip of Russia-related information has overshadowed what the White House was hoping would be a fresh start with new chief of staff John Kelly.

The four-star retired Marine general on Monday began his quest to impose order on an administration careening out of control.

On Tuesday, Trump focused on the American economy, a bright spot on the otherwise gloomy political landscape.

“Stock Market could hit all-time high (again) 22,000 today. Was 18,000 only 6 months ago on Election Day. Mainstream media seldom mentions!” he said on Twitter.

Later in the day, he participated in a White House event with small businesses, at which he reiterated his comments on Wall Street.

But just in case there were any illusions that Kelly could tame Trump’s Twitter venting, the president was at pains to dispel them. 

“Only the Fake News Media and Trump enemies want me to stop using Social Media (110 million people). Only way for me to get the truth out!” he tweeted.

During his meeting with small business leaders, Trump jokingly complained out loud that Kelly had not made journalists give him credit for a years-long economic recovery.

“I keep telling General Kelly, ‘General, come on, let’s go, you’re chief of staff’,” Trump said in a subtle dig.

Related reading

US senator says Trump ready for war with North Korea

Influential lawmaker Lindsey Graham, a foreign policy hawk, told NBC’s Today Show: “There is a military option: To destroy North Korea’s program and North Korea itself.

长沙夜网

Last week, North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un boasted that his country could now strike any target in the United States after carrying out its latest intercontinental ballistic missile test.

World powers have been trying to stifle Pyongyang’s weapons program through United Nations-backed sanctions, but have failed to daunt the regime and Washington is growing frustrated.

Related reading

Graham said that if diplomacy, and in particular pressure from the North’s neighbor China, fails to halt the program then the United States will have no choice but to take devastating military action.

“They’ve kicked the can down the road for 20 years. There will be a war with North Korea over the missile program if they continue to try to hit America with an ICBM,” he said, describing his discussions with Trump. 

“He’s told me that. I believe him. If I were China, I would believe him, too, and do something about it. You can stop North Korea, militarily or diplomatically. 

“I prefer the diplomatic approach. But they will not be allowed to have a missile to hit America with a nuclear weapon on top.”

0:00 US-South Korea military exercises following North’s missile launch Share US-South Korea military exercises following North’s missile launch

Trump ‘close to decision’ on Chinese trade

US President Donald Trump is close to a decision on how to respond to what he considers China’s unfair trade practices, a senior Trump administration official says.

长沙夜网

Trump is considering encouraging US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer to initiate an investigation of Chinese trade practices under the 1974 Trade Act’s section 301, the official said.

An announcement could come as early as this week, the official said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

Section 301 of the Trade Act of 1974 allows the president to unilaterally impose tariffs or other trade restrictions to protect US industries from “unfair trade practices” of foreign countries, such as trade agreement violations, or “discriminatory” actions that burden US commerce.

The United States has a long list of grievances about China on trade, including accusations of steel dumping and theft of US intellectual property.

Trump has long been a critic of Chinese trade practices but his interest in penalising Beijing has risen due to his concern at what he perceives to be Chinese inaction on reining in increasingly belligerent North Korea.

China’s Foreign Ministry said this week the North Korean nuclear issue did not arise because of China and that everyone needed to work together to seek a resolution.

Section 301 was used extensively in the 1980s to combat Japanese imports of motorcycles, steel and other products – an era during which Lighthizer served as deputy US trade representative.

But the statute has been little used since the World Trade Organization was launched in 1995.

The WTO provides a forum for resolving trade disputes, but Lighthizer and Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross have complained that this is extremely slow, often taking years to reach a conclusion, and that the Geneva-based organisation has an inherent anti-US bias.

‘We respectfully disagree’: 56 retired generals slam Trump’s transgender ban

Fifty-six retired US generals, admirals and other senior officers have voiced opposition to President Donald Trump’s announcement of a ban on transgender military service, saying it would be disruptive and degrade readiness.

长沙夜网

Also on Tuesday, the US Coast Guard commandant, Admiral Paul Zukunft, offered support for transgender members of his service.

The letter and comments were the latest push-back from retired or active military members after Trump said on Twitter he would ban transgender people from serving in the military “in any capacity”, reviving a ban that had ended in 2016.

Trump’s announcement appealed to some in his conservative political base, but it created vast uncertainty for active-duty and reserve transgender service members, who say they number in the thousands.

Related reading

The retired officers said in their open letter that the ban “would cause significant disruptions” and deprive the military of talent or force members to live a lie.

The retired officers said the move would “degrade readiness” even more than the ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ policy implemented in 1994 under President Bill Clinton that lifted a ban on gay people serving in the military but called for them to be circumspect about their sexuality.

“Patriotic transgender Americans who are serving – and who want to serve – must not be dismissed, deprived of medically necessary health care, or forced to compromise their integrity or hide their identity,” the former officers wrote.

The ban would also force non-transgender members to choose between reporting comrades or disobeying policy, they said.

The letter was released by the Palm Center, a public policy think tank. Signatories included retired Marine General John Allen, who formerly led US troops in Afghanistan, and retired Army Major General Antonio Taguba, who investigated abuse of detainees at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq.

0:00 Trump bans transgender troops from military Share Trump bans transgender troops from military

Related reading