A group of protestors gathered at Toronto’s famed Nathan Phillips Square on Friday to demand the release of hundreds of military cadets, who were imprisoned by the Turkish government following a coup attempt in July 2016.

The protestors consisted of several military cadets who managed flee Turkey in order to avoid persecution at the hands of the government following the failed attempt.

A total of 259 military cadets were detained on coup charges on July 16, 2016 and were jailed pending trial four days later. On January 19, 2018, a total of 37 of them were given life sentences on charges of attempting to overturn the constitutional order and attempting to overthrow the Turkish government and parliament by use of force as well as membership in a terrorist organization. On May 18, 2018, 62 others were sentenced to life in prison over similar charges.  On May 25, 2018, 116 cadets and on July 17, 2018, 44 more cadets were imprisoned for life on charges of attempting to destroy the constitutional order due to their alleged role in a coup attempt.

The cadets say they had no information about a coup attempt unfolding and were acting on orders from their superiors, who told them there was a terrorist attack.

The military coup attempt killed 251 people and wounded more than a thousand others. Immediately after the abortive putsch, the Justice and Development Party (AKP) government along with President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan pinned the blame on the Gülen group. The group denies any involvement in the attempt.