After Six Years in Prison, Turkish Military Academy Trainees Released Pending Trial

Although belated, the glimmer of hope and a hint of justice emerges for some Turkish trainees who were wrongfully convicted in mass trials after the 2016 coup.

Abdullah Ayasun

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Air Force Academy trainee Furkan Cetinkaya is seen with his mother after being released on June 21, 2022. He remained behind bars for nearly six years.

Turkey’s Supreme Court of Appeals ordered the release of more than 66 Turkish Air Force Academy trainees, who were serving life in prison over alleged involvement in an abortive coup in 2016, overturning a verdict by a lower court in Istanbul.

After spending more than 2,150 days behind bars, the released trainees were reunited by families outside the notorious Silivri Prison in Istanbul on late Tuesday night. The Supreme Court’s ruling, although belated, marks a turning point in the turns and twists of Turkey’s legal politics that condemned thousands of people with different social persuasion and political affiliation.

Melek Cetinkaya, the symbolic figure of the families’ public fight for justice, shared the moment of reunion with his son on Twitter. Furkan Cetinkaya, an Air Force Academy trainee, was one of the students swept up in the post-coup frenzy following an ill-fated putsch launched by some restive units in the Turkish military in the 2016 summer.

A group of trainees was bussed to several locations controlling the entrance to Istanbul and some of them were deployed on two bridges linking the Asian and Europan continents through Bosporus. As pro-government protesters clashed with troops on the Bosporus bridge, some privates and trainees were mob lynched by an angry crowd agitated after a number of soldiers opened fire at civilians.

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Abdullah Ayasun

Boston-based journalist and writer. Columbia Graduate School of Journalism. 2023 WHCA Scholar. On art, culture, politics and everything in between. X: @abyasun