For their part, defendants and their lawyers accuse the government of violating their rights, including mistreatment and torture in the first days after the coup, and the use of false evidence and forced confessions.
The judges themselves are under pressure. Some 3,000 judges have been purged in the crackdown since the coup attempt. Some judges have been replaced mid-trial — itself a violation — often by inexperienced judges just out of law school.
“A judge in a city sees that other judges are in jail; the judges’ and prosecutors’ high board representative, who assigns judges, is in jail; so there is a climate of fear,” said Husamettin Cindoruk, a veteran lawyer and former government minister. “So there is a crisis of the judiciary.”
One exception may be Judge Oguz Dik, who presides over the most important of the cases dealing with the coup plot, including the prosecution of the officers who tried to take over the General Staff headquarters and held the chief of staff, Gen. Hulusi Akar, and others at gunpoint. Twelve people there were killed.
“This trial is the gold standard,” said Mr. Guzel, the veterans’ lawyer.
Even so, during a recent hearing, more than 200 defendants sat in a central pen surrounded by armed guards in a courtroom the size of an Olympic gymnasium.
Banks of lawyers and members of the public watched the proceedings on giant video screens from raised stands. The judge listened to hours of testimony from a defendant on the stand, ignoring the hubbub as defendants were escorted in and out by guards, chatted to each other, or huddled with their lawyers over a partition.
Outside the court, a middle-aged woman sat knitting, waiting to visit her husband in prison. She said she dared not attend the proceedings for fear of the pro-government supporters. She declined to give her name in case of repercussions against her or her family.