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Turkey sentences 74 to life in prison over attempted coup

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Seventy-four people, including soldiers, were sentenced to life in prison by a Turkish court on Wednesday for their role in the 2016 Turkish coup d’état attempt, Reuters reported citing the state-owned Anadolu news agency.

More than 240 people, most of them unarmed civilians, were killed on the night of July 15, 2016, when a faction of the Turkish army commandeered tanks and warplanes in an attempt to overthrow Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.

During the botched putsch, the rogue soldiers declared that they had seized control of the country. The attempt was, however, suppressed a few hours later.

Turkey blames U.S.-based Muslim cleric Fethullah Gülen for the coup and has carried out a widespread crackdown on his suspected supporters, detaining some 160,000 people, including academics, soldiers and civil servants.

Of those, 77,000 have been formally charged and kept in jail during trial, according to the interior minister.

On Wednesday, the court sentenced 74 defendants to aggravated life sentences for “attempting to disrupt the constitutional order,” Anadolu said.

Aggravated life sentences are subject to a harsher regime in prison, and are not eligible for parole or general amnesty.

The international community and rights groups have voiced concern about the scope of the purges, saying Erdoğan had used the coup as a pretext to quash dissent.