After Kavanaugh Assassination Attempt Transgender Activist tweets ‘Supreme Court Assassination Challenge’

Exodus 18:21 “Moreover, look for able men from all the people, men who fear God, who are trustworthy and hate a bribe, and place such men over the people as chiefs of thousands, of hundreds, of fifties, and of tens.

Important Takeaways:

  • Transgender Activist Promotes ‘Supreme Court Assassination Challenge’, Later Claims It Was Just a Joke
  • Erlick’s tweet also caught the attention of Sen. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) who responded: “The unhinged radical left is calling for the assassination of our Supreme Court Justices. That’s not the way to disagree with a decision in America. It is unacceptable, and Biden’s DOJ must immediately act.”
  • Earlier this month, a man carrying a gun, a knife and zip ties was arrested near Justice Brett Kavanaugh’s house in Maryland after threatening to kill the justice.
  • As CBN News reported, abortion extremists struck across the country over the weekend, lashing out at pro-life centers, lawmakers, and police officers in the latest spate of vandalism and threats.
  • As CBN News has reported, since the leaked draft opinion of the Dobbs decision, more than 40 incidents of violence, vandalism, and intimidation against pro-life pregnancy centers have been reported.
  • More than 100 House Republicans have signed a letter to Attorney General Merrick Garland, asking the DOJ to investigate vandalism and attacks at pro-life centers as domestic terrorism.

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Same day of assassination attempt on Kavanagh, Pelosi stalls on bill for additional security for Justices

2 Timothy 3:1-5 “But understand this that in the last days there will come times of difficulty. For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, heartless, unappeasable, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not loving good, treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power. Avoid such people.”

Important Takeaways:

  • Democrats Block Bill Providing Additional Security for Supreme Court Justices
  • House Democrats on Wednesday stalled a bill that would have provided additional security for Supreme Court Justices on the same day a man was arrested for attempting to murder Justice Brett Kavanagh.
  • House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) made a unanimous consent request on the House floor to bring up S. 4160 for a vote. S. 4160, which passed the Senate by a unanimous vote, would have allocated additional security for the justices’ family members.
  • Despite McCarthy’s request, Speaker Pelosi and the Democrats failed to comply with McCarthy’s proposal to bring the bill to vote.

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U.S. President Reagan’s shooter John Hinckley wins unconditional release

By Jan Wolfe

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – A U.S. judge on Monday said he would grant “unconditional release” to John Hinckley, who wounded former U.S. President Ronald Reagan and three other people in a 1981 assassination attempt.

“I am going to, after all these years, grant unconditional release to Mr. Hinckley,” U.S. District Judge Paul Friedman said during a court hearing in the District of Columbia.

In 2016, Friedman allowed Hinckley to move out of a Washington psychiatric hospital, where he had lived for three decades, but imposed restrictions on his travel and internet usage.

Friedman said during Monday’s hearing that he planned to lift those remaining restrictions. Hinckley’s mental health problems are “in remission” and he no longer poses a danger, Friedman said.

Friedman said he would issue a written order later this week memorializing his decision.

A federal prosecutor, Kacie Weston, said during the court hearing that the U.S. Justice Department agreed Hinckley should be given unconditional release. But Weston argued the restrictions should not be formally lifted until June 2022 so that prosecutors can continue to monitor Hinckley as he transitions to living on his own following the death of his mother.

Reagan suffered a punctured lung in the assassination attempt but recovered quickly.

Others wounded included White House press secretary James Brady, Secret Service agent Timothy McCarthy and Washington police officer Thomas Delahanty.

Hinckley was found not guilty by reason of insanity at a 1982 jury trial. That verdict prompted Congress and some U.S. states to adopt laws limiting use of the insanity defense.

The shooting helped launch the modern gun control movement as Brady, who was left permanently disabled, and his wife, Sarah, founded what is now known as the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence.

(Reporting by Jan Wolfe; Editing by Bill Berkrot)

Aide to Ukraine’s president survives assassination attempt

By Pavel Polityuk and Natalia Zinets

KYIV (Reuters) -A volley of automatic gunfire hit a car carrying a senior aide to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy on Wednesday, an incident a senior official called an assassination attempt and Zelenskiy said may have been a message intended for him.

The aide, Serhiy Shefir, survived unscathed but police said his driver had been wounded in the attack near the village of Lesnyky, just outside the capital Kyiv.

A prosecutor said the car had been hit 18 times, and multiple bullet holes could be seen along the driver’s side.

Police said in a statement they had opened a criminal case on suspicion of premeditated murder.

Zelenskiy, who is in New York for the U.N. General Assembly, said he did not know for now who was responsible for the attack, which shocked the country’s political elite.

“I don’t know yet who stood behind this,” said Zelenskiy. “Sending me a message by shooting my friend is weakness.”

Shefir is close to Zelenskiy and leads a group of advisers.

“I have not conducted any cases that would have caused aggression. I think this is intimidation,” Shefir told a joint news briefing with police and Interior Minister Denys Monastyrsky.

“I think this won’t frighten the president,” he added.

Zelenskiy came to power on a promise to take on the country’s oligarchs and fight corruption, and Mykhailo Podolyak, one of his advisers, said the assassination attempt could be a result of the campaign against the oligarchs.

DOUBLING DOWN

Zelenskiy said he would be doubling down on his planned reforms rather than backing off.

“It does not affect the strength of our team, the course that I have chosen with my team – to change, to clean up our economy, to fight crime and large influential financial groups,” he said.

“This does not affect that. On the contrary, because the Ukrainian people have given me a mandate for changes.”

Podolyak, Zelenskiy’s adviser, promised tougher measures against oligarchs after the attack.

“This open, deliberate and extremely violent assault with automatic weapons cannot be qualified any differently than as an attempted killing of a key team member,” Podolyak told Reuters.

“We, of course, associate this attack with an aggressive and even militant campaign against the active policy of the head of state,” Interfax Ukraine quoted Podolyak as saying separately.

Parliament is this week due to debate a presidential law aimed at reducing the influence of oligarchs in Ukrainian society.

Police said they were investigating three scenarios: an effort to put pressure on the country’s leadership, an attempt to destabilize the political situation, and the involvement of foreign intelligence services.

“The purpose of this crime was not to scare, but to kill,” Monastyrsky, the minister, said.

Oleksandr Korniienko, the head of Zelenskiy’s political party, said Russian involvement should not be ruled out.

“A Russian trace should not be absolutely ruled out. We know their ability to organize terrorist attacks in different countries,” Korniienko told reporters.

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said suggestions of Russian involvement “have nothing to do with reality”.

(Reporting by Pavel Polityuk, Natalia ZinetsAdditional reporting by Ilya Zhegulev and Sergiy Karazy;Writing by Andrew Osborn and Pavel Polityuk; Editing by Kevin Liffey and Giles Elgood)

Gunman wounds NYC police officer inside station hours after ambushing patrol officers

By Brendan O’Brien

(Reuters) – A gunman opened fire inside a New York City police station on Sunday, striking a lieutenant in the arm, some 12 hours after he had ambushed a patrol van in the same neighborhood, wounding an officer, police said.

The gunman was arrested at the police station. The two officers were being treated in hospital and were expected to fully recover from their wounds, officials said at a news conference.

“This was an attempt to assassinate two police officers … it was a premeditated effort to kill,” New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio said. “An attack on a police officer is an attack on all of us.”

The gunman, whose name has not yet been released by authorities, entered the 41st Precinct headquarters in the Bronx borough just before 8 a.m. (1300 GMT), pulled out a .9mm hand gun and started firing at the front desk where several officers stood, officials said.

He then walked into an area next to the desk and fired several rounds at point blank range at several more officers and a civilian staffer, Police Commissioner Dermot Shea said.

“It is only by the grace of God and heroic actions of those inside the building who took him into custody that we are not talking about police officers murdered,” he said.

“This coward immediately laid down but only after he ran out of bullets,” Shea said.

A lieutenant, who returned fire, was shot in the upper left arm.

On Saturday night a uniformed police officer who was sitting in his police van with his partner was shot by the same gunman, police said. He walked up to the vehicle and began a conversation with the two officers in the vehicle before suddenly opening fire, striking one policeman in the chin and neck, police said.

The officers did not return fire. The wounded officer’s partner got in the driver’s seat and drove him to the hospital.

(Reporting by Brendan O’Brien in Chicago; editing by Grant McCool)

Stabbed Brazilian front-runner Bolsonaro needs more surgery -hospital

FILE PHOTO: Brazilian presidential candidate Jair Bolsonaro reacts after being stabbed during a rally in Juiz de Fora, Minas Gerais state, Brazil September 6, 2018.REUTERS/Raysa Campos Leite

SAO PAULO (Reuters) – Brazil’s front-running far-right presidential candidate Jair Bolsonaro is still in serious condition in intensive care and will need to undergo another major surgery, the hospital where he is being treated said in a written statement on Monday.

Bolsonaro, 63, was stabbed at a campaign rally on Thursday in an assassination attempt that plunged the presidential race into further confusion as it appears unlikely he will be able to resume campaigning before the Oct. 7 vote.

The medical bulletin issued by the Einstein Hospital in Sao Paulo contrasted with the upbeat report on Sunday that said Bolsonaro’s health had improved markedly and that he had walked for a few minutes but was still receiving food intravenously.

The new report said his condition was still serious and he would need additional surgery since he has a colostomy bag that needs to be removed and the intestine perforated by the stabbing repaired.

There are no signs of infection, the bulletin added.

The knife attack against Bolsonaro further complicated the most unpredictable election in three decades, with Brazil’s most popular politician, jailed former president Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, banned from running due to a corruption conviction but keeping up a legal battle to try to overturn that ban.

Bolsonaro, a former army captain, has for years angered many Brazilians with extreme statements on race, gender, and sexual preference, but he is also seen by his many supporters as an outsider who can clean up a corrupt political system.

Police have a suspect in custody and say only that they are continuing the investigation and that no clear motive was yet known, though the assailant told police he stabbed Bolsonaro on Thursday on “orders from God.”

Surveys consistently give Bolsonaro, a member of the Social Liberal Party, around 22 percent in of voter support. However, those polls find he would lose to most rivals in the likely event of a runoff, which takes place if no candidate wins a majority in the first ballot.

Bolsonaro’s campaign managers hope that the stabbing will draw sympathy votes that will win him the presidency.

(Reporting by Brad Brooks in Sao Paulo and Pedro Fonseca in Rio de Janeiro; Writing by Anthony Boadle; Editing by Alistair Bell)

‘We found Russian hit-list of 47 people’, Ukraine tells allies

Russian journalist Arkady Babchenko (C), who was reported murdered in the Ukrainian capital on May 29, Ukrainian Prosecutor General Yuriy Lutsenko (R) and head of the state security service (SBU) Vasily Gritsak attend a news briefing in Kiev, Ukraine May 30, 2018. REUTERS/Valentyn Ogirenko

By Matthias Williams and Natalia Zinets

KIEV (Reuters) – Ukraine, seeking to reassure its Western allies after faking the murder of a Russian dissident to thwart what it said was a plot on his life, told them on Friday its ruse led to the discovery of a hit-list of 47 people whom Russia planned to kill abroad.

The Kiev authorities drew both praise and consternation this week for staging the fake shooting of Arkady Babchenko, an exiled journalist, which they said was necessary to protect him and dozens of others who were targeted in a genuine Russian plot.

Russia has poured scorn on Ukraine’s allegations while some organizations and commentators criticized Kiev for the kind of trickery which Ukraine routinely accuses Russia of using.

Ukraine’s credibility matters as it counts on Western financial support and sanctions on Moscow in its standoff with Russia over the annexation of Crimea in 2014 and a Russian-backed separatist conflict in which more than 10,000 people have been killed.

General Prosecutor Yuriy Lutsenko, one of the few Ukrainian officials who knew about the ruse in advance, briefed the ambassadors of the United States, the European Union and other countries.

In a statement after the meeting, Lutsenko said faking the murder was necessary because it allowed Ukrainian investigators to obtain more information about the list of people targeted and about who had ordered the murder.

As a result, “the investigation received a list of 47 (!) people who could be the next victims of terrorists,” he wrote on Facebook.

He did not provide any names but said the list included prominent Ukrainian and Russian journalists.

The 47 number is higher than the 30 people, including Babchenko, whom Ukraine originally believed were targets.

The investigation also gleaned important evidence linking the plot to Russian intelligence services, which would be divulged later, Lutsenko said.

STATE PROTECTION

Ukrainian officials reported on Tuesday that Babchenko, a Kremlin critic, had been gunned down in his apartment building in Kiev. Lurid pictures of him lying in a pool of blood were published, and officials suggested Russia was behind the killing, something Moscow flatly denied.

A day later, Babchenko appeared in public alive, andUkrainian state security officials admitted they had faked his death to foil and expose what they described as a Russian plot to assassinate him.

That drew criticism from media and commentators abroad who questioned whether the ruse and the false outpouring of grief and finger-pointing at Russia it provoked had undermined credibility in Kiev and handing the Kremlin a propaganda gift.

One senior EU country diplomat who attended Friday’s meeting said Lutsenko had given a convincing explanation to justify the means Ukraine had employed.

“I’m happy, others are happier than before. I’d say it was the right thing to,” the diplomat told Reuters, adding that Lutsenko did “acknowledge that the media reaction came as a surprise and that side should have been handled better.”

Separately two television presenters based in Ukraine, one Russian and one Ukrainian, disclosed publicly that the Ukrainian authorities had shown them evidence of being on Russia’s hit list and were now living under state protection.

A senior European Union official involved in Ukraine said the staged murder could undermine trust in Kiev if the government did not come forward quickly with evidence of what they claimed and the plot’s links to Russia.

A marker will be the July 9 EU-Ukraine summit in Brussels, where President Petro Poroshenko will need to show proof, if not before, the official said.

“What if they fail to provide evidence? It all depends on how well they follow up,” the official said.

(This version of the story has been refiled to recast headline. Text unchanged)

(Additional reporting by Robin Emmott in Brussels; Editing by Richard Balmforth)

Suspect in Palestinian assassination attempt among four dead in Gaza shootout: Hamas

Palestinian security forces loyal to Hamas take up positions during an operation to arrest the main suspect in an assassination attempt against Palestinian Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah, in the central Gaza Strip March 22, 2018. REUTERS/Ibraheem Abu Mustafa

By Nidal al-Mughrabi

GAZA (Reuters) – Hamas said its security forces in Gaza shot dead on Thursday the main suspect behind an attempt to assassinate the Palestinian prime minister, a bombing that threatens to unravel its reconciliation agreement with the West Bank-based government.

Two members of the Hamas security forces and one accomplice of the suspect also died in the shootout, the Hamas-led Gaza interior ministry said.

The bombing of Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah’s convoy in Gaza last week dealt another blow to efforts to implement a unity deal between the two main Palestinian factions – Islamist Hamas, which dominates Gaza, and Fatah, the main party in the Palestinian Authority in the Israeli-occupied West Bank.

The motorcade Hamdallah and Palestinian security chief Majid Faraj was attacked on March 13 shortly after it entered Gaza from neighboring Israel. They were uninjured.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas had blamed Hamas for the explosion.

After Thursday’s raid, a spokesman for Hamdallah’s government questioned Hamas’s version of events and again accused the group of bearing “full criminal responsibility” for the assassination attempt.

“Once more, Hamas is going along the same path of … fabricating weak stories that make no sense,” the spokesman, Youssef Al-Mahmoud, said.

More than a decade after Hamas fighters drove the Palestinian Authority out of Gaza, Egypt has been brokering a reconciliation deal under which the PA would again assume administrative and security control in the territory of two million people.

Hamdallah has been spearheading those efforts on behalf of the PA, with both sides still divided over how to share power in Gaza, where Hamas is still the strongest armed force.

Abbas has argued that the assassination attempt proved that the agreement was failing and that Hamas could not be trusted.

In a statement, the Hamas-run Interior Ministry in Gaza said its security forces investigating the assassination attempt had surrounded a hideout in the central region of the enclave and came under fire after demanding the suspects surrender.

It said a man named Anas Abu Khoussa, whom it identified as the prime suspect in the bombing, was killed in the ensuing shootout, along with an accomplice and two Hamas security men.

The ministry did not say whether Abu Khoussa was affiliated with any militant group.

Abbas has offered no evidence of the involvement of Hamas in the attempt against Hamdallah’s life. But he said he did not trust Hamas to investigate the incident honestly and that there had been “zero” progress in the reconciliation.

Hamas seized the Gaza Strip from forces loyal to Fatah in 2007.

The Palestinian reconciliation effort is opposed by Israel, which considers Hamas, a group dedicated to its destruction, an implacable foe. U.S.-brokered peace talks between Israel and the Palestinians collapsed in 2014, in part over a unity deal that year between the PA and Hamas, as well as other issues.

(Reporting by Nidal al-Mughrabi; Writing by Jeffrey Heller; Editing by Ori Lewis and Peter Graff)

Lebanon’s PM Hariri resigns, attacking Iran, Hezbollah

Lebanese Prime Minister-designate Saad al-Hariri reacts at the presidential palace in Baabda, near Beirut, Lebanon November 3, 2016.

By Angus McDowall , Tom Perry and Sarah Dadouch

BEIRUT (Reuters) – Lebanon’s prime minister Saad al-Hariri resigned on Saturday, saying he believed there was an assassination plot against him and accusing Iran and its Lebanese ally Hezbollah of sowing strife in the Arab world.

His resignation thrusts Lebanon back into the frontline of Saudi-Iranian regional rivalry and seems likely to exacerbate sectarian tensions between Lebanese Sunni and Shi’ite Muslims.

It also shatters a coalition government formed last year after years of political deadlock, and which was seen as representing a victory for Shi’ite Hezbollah and Iran.

Hariri, who is closely allied with Saudi Arabia, alleged in a televised broadcast that Hezbollah was “directing weapons” at Yemenis, Syrians and Lebanese and said the Arab world would “cut off the hands that wickedly extend to it”.

Hariri’s coalition, which took office last year, grouped nearly all of Lebanon’s main parties, including Hezbollah. It took office in a political deal that made Michel Aoun, a Hezbollah ally, president.

It was not immediately clear who might succeed Hariri, Lebanon’s most influential Sunni politician.

The post of prime minister is reserved for a Sunni Muslim in Lebanon’s sectarian power sharing system. The constitution requires Aoun to nominate the candidate with the greatest support among MPs.

“We are living in a climate similar to the atmosphere that prevailed before the assassination of martyr Rafik al-Hariri. I have sensed what is being plotted covertly to target my life,” Hariri said.

Rafik al-Hariri was killed in a 2005 Beirut bomb attack that pushed his son Saad into politics and set off years of turmoil.

The Saudi-owned pan-Arab television channel al-Arabiya al-Hadath reported that an assassination plot against Saad al-Hariri was foiled in Beirut days ago, citing an unnamed source. Lebanese officials could not immediately be reached for comment.

In a statement read from an undisclosed location, Hariri said Hezbollah and Iran had brought Lebanon into the “eye of a storm” of international sanctions. He said Iran was sowing strife, destruction and ruin wherever it went and accused it of a “deep hatred for the Arab nation”.

Aoun’s office said Hariri had called him from “outside Lebanon” to inform him of his resignation.

Hariri flew to Saudi Arabia on Friday after a meeting in Beirut with Ali Akbar Velayati, the top adviser to Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. Afterwards, Velayati described Hariri’s coalition as “a victory” and “great success”.

 

TUSSLE FOR INFLUENCE

Walid Jumblatt, the leader of Lebanon’s Druze minority, who has frequently played kingmaker in Lebanese politics, said he feared the consequences of Hariri’s resignation.

“We cannot afford to fight the Iranians from Lebanon,” he said, advocating an approach of compromise with Hezbollah in Lebanon while waiting for regional circumstances to allow Saudi-Iranian dialogue.

Iranian officials denounced the resignation, noting that it had been made from outside Lebanon, while Saudi officials appeared to crow over it.

“Hariri’s resignation was done with planning by Donald Trump, the president of America, and Mohammed bin Salman, the crown prince of Saudi Arabia, to destabilize the situation in Lebanon and the region,” said Hussein Sheikh al-Islam, adviser to Iran’s supreme leader, in remarks to a state broadcaster.

Saudi Arabia’s influential Gulf Affairs Minister Thamer al-Sabhan, who met Hariri in Riyadh this week, echoed the language of the Lebanese politician saying in a tweet: “The hands of treachery and aggression must be cut off.”

Saudi Arabia and Iran are locked in a regional power tussle, backing opposing forces in wars and political struggles in Lebanon, Syria, Yemen, Bahrain and Iraq.

A U.N.-backed tribunal charged five Hezbollah members over Rafik al-Hariri’s killing. Their trial in absentia at the Hague began in January 2014 and Hezbollah and the Syrian government, have both denied any involvement in the killing.

In his statement, Hariri said Iran was “losing in its interference in the affairs of the Arab world”, adding that Lebanon would “rise as it had done in the past”.

 

POLITICAL DEAL

Hezbollah’s close ties to Iran and its support for Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in his war with rebels have been a major source of tension in neighboring Lebanon for years.

The Lebanese government has adopted an official position of “disassociation” from the conflict, but this has come under strain in recent months with Hezbollah and its allies pushing for a normalization of ties with Assad.

Since taking office, Hariri had worked to garner international aid for Lebanon to cope with the strain of hosting some 1.5 million Syrian refugees, seeking billions of dollars to boost its sluggish economy.

Finance Minister Ali Hassan Khalil told Reuters there was no danger to Lebanon’s economy or its currency.

“Over previous decades, Hezbollah was able to impose a reality in Lebanon with the power of its weapons, which it claims is the (anti-Israel) resistance’s weapons, which are aimed at the chests of our Syrian and Yemeni brothers, not to mention the Lebanese,” Hariri said.

He said the Lebanese people were suffering from Hezbollah’s interventions, both internally and at the level of their relationships with other Arab countries.

Hariri has visited Saudi Arabia, a political foe of Iran and Hezbollah, twice in the past week, meeting Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and other senior officials.

In recent weeks, leading Christian politicians who oppose Hezbollah have also visited Saudi Arabia.

 

(Reporting by Angus McDowall, Tom Perry, Sarah Dadouch and Babak Dehghanpisheh in Beirut, Ahmed Tolba in Cairo and Reem Shamseddine in Khobar; Editing by Mark Heinrich and Stephen Powell)

 

Turkish soldiers accused of Erdogan assassination attempt to go to trial

Turkish soldiers accused of attempting to assassinate President Tayyip Erdogan on the night of the failed last year's July 15 coup, are escorted by gendarmes as they arrive for the first hearing of the trial in Mugla, Turkey,

By Humeyra Pamuk

MUGLA, Turkey (Reuters) – Prosecutors called for life sentences for more than 40 Turkish soldiers on Monday at the start of their trial for attempting to assassinate President Tayyip Erdogan during last year’s failed coup, according to the indictment obtained by Reuters.

Under tight security, the defendants were bussed in to a courthouse in the southwestern city of Mugla, not far from the luxury resort where Erdogan and his family narrowly escaped the soldiers, fleeing in a helicopter shortly before their hotel was attacked.

More than 240 people were killed during the July 15 failed coup, when a group of rogue soldiers commandeered tanks, warplanes and helicopters, attacking parliament and attempting to overthrow the government.

On Monday, prosecutors in Mugla charged 47 suspects, almost all of them soldiers, with charges including attempting to assassinate the president, breaching the constitution and membership of an armed terrorist organization.

It was not immediately clear how all the suspects would plead. One of the first defendants to testify admitted to accepting a mission to seize, but not kill, Erdogan.

“My mission was to take the president and bring him to Akinci air base safe and sound,” Gokhan Sonmezates told the court, referring to a base outside Ankara that briefly functioned as a command center for the coup plotters.

Turkey says the coup was orchestrated by a U.S.-based Muslim cleric, Fethullah Gulen. The cleric, who has lived in self-imposed exile in Pennsylvania since 1999, has denied the charges and condemned the coup.

Since the failed coup, more than 40,000 people have been arrested and more than 100,000 have been sacked or suspended from the military, civil service and private sector.

Turkey launched its first criminal trial related to the coup in December and more trials are expected.

SNIPERS, SPECIAL FORCES

Sonmezates, a former brigadier general, was described in the indictment as a leader of the mission, something he denied in court. He also denied charges that he was a member of Gulen’s network.

“It was for the country, for the nation, to stop the decay domestically, to put an end to the bribery, to protect my country from the PKK,” he told the court, referring to the militant Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK).

The suspects, who include Erdogan’s former aide-de-camp, were wearing suits when they were brought from prison to the courthouse. They were met by a crowd of some 200 people waving flags and calling for their execution.

“We want the death penalty. Let the hand that tried to harm our chief be broken,” said one of the protesters, 61-year-old Zuhal Ayhan, referring to Erdogan. “I’d give my life for him.”

Turkey formally abolished the death penalty as part of its 2002 European Union accession talks. Since the coup, crowds have repeatedly called for it to be restored, a move that would likely spell the end of Turkey’s bid to join the EU.

The area around the courthouse was cordoned off and patrolled by dozens of security force members, including police and special forces. Snipers stood on nearby rooftops.

Forty-four defendants were brought in, while three remain at large and are being tried in absentia. The courthouse in Mugla was too small to handle the number of defendants and authorities said the trial was being heard at the conference room of the chamber of commerce next door.

According to the indictment, some 37 soldiers were charged with a having a direct role in the storming of the luxury Grand Yazici Club Turban, others are those who provided assistance to the operation.

The soldiers in helicopters descended on the hotel in Marmaris, on ropes, shooting, just after Erdogan had left.

In an interview with Reuters after the coup, Erdogan said his faith as a Muslim helped him and his family escape unscathed.

(Writing by David Dolan; Editing by Dominic Evans)