Hundreds sentenced to life in prison in Turkey's attempted coup trial

Turkish police officers stand guard near the entrance of the Sincan Penal Institution at the 4th Heavy Penal Court near Ankara.

(CNN)Hundreds of people were sentenced to life in prison in Turkey on Thursday in a trial linked to a 2016 coup attempt.

A total of 475 defendants were tried in the high-profile case that focused on the events in the Akinci Air Base in Ankara, which the prosecutor argued was the main command center for the coup plot.
Most of the defendants received at least one life sentence. Nineteen were sentenced to 79 counts of life in prison without parole after being convicted of charges of attempting to overthrow the constitutional order, assassinate the President and murder, according to the state news agency Anadolu.
    Seventy people were acquitted, the state news agency said.
      "The Turkish judiciary continues to hold the traitors to account," Turkish Justice Minister Abdulhamit Gul said on Twitter after the court announced the verdicts.
        "No one should doubt that justice will be served and that law and democracy will win," he added.
        More than 250 people were killed in the July 2016 coup attempt, many of them civilians. Tanks rolled onto the streets of Istanbul and Ankara, the country's two largest cities. Soldiers blocked the famous Bosphorus Bridge in Istanbul, while bombs struck the parliament building Ankara, the country's capital.
          According to the indictment, the orders to bomb government buildings including the parliament and to assassinate President Recep Tayyip Erdogan were given from Akinci Air Base.
          Turkey's current defense minister, then-Chief of Staff Hulusi Akar, was held hostage at the base during the coup attempt.
          Erdogan has accused Fethullah Gulen, a Muslim cleric living in the US, of masterminding the events. Gulen has vehemently denied the charges.
          Gulen was a close ally of Turkey's ruling Justice and Development Party, with his followers helping to staff the bureaucratic ranks but the partnership turned hostile in 2013.
          Since the coup attempt, the government has been cracking down on followers of the cleric.
            Nearly 100,000 have been arrested and 150,000 have been fired from government jobs including the military in the aftermath of the attempted coup, according to the interior ministry. Turkish courts have already held several mass trials over the alleged plot.
            The attempted overthrow and the government's ensuing crackdown on the media, the political opposition, academics and security forces have been a divisive force in the country.