[JURIST] A Turkish court on Wednesday sentenced two former generals to life imprisonment for leading Turkey's 1980 coup d'etat that led to three years of military rule. The two retired generals, 96-year-old Kenan Evren [official profile], who held the presidential office for seven years following the military takeover, and 89-year-old former air force commander Tahsin Sahinkaya, are the only two surviving leaders of the coup, and were not able to attend the trial due to medical complications. The sentencing is a significant moment in Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan's [BBC profile] attempt to end the military's dominance over the country's political life over the past few decades. The 1980 coup led to many executions, torture demonstrations and disappearances, with more than 600,000 people detained and 50 hanged. The two leaders are the first military officers to be tried for staging a coup [Reuters report], made possible by a 2010 referendum that overturned a coup-leader immunity clause in Article 15 of the Constitution [text].
The trial of the two men began [JURIST report] in April 2012 in front of the Ankara 12th High Criminal Court. In June 2011 Evren became the first military leader questioned since constitutional immunity was repealed in 2010. The court accepted the indictment against Evren and Sahinkaya in January, after the prosecution charged the two retired generals [JURIST reports] a week earlier. Turkey has faced numerous coup plots during the past few years and continues to bring charges against military officials and other individuals for crimes against the government. In November 2011 13 Turkish journalists were accused of plotting [JURIST report] to overthrow the government. In August 2011 the court issued arrest warrants [JURIST report] for seven generals and admirals relating to allegations that they created an anti-government website in 2009.