Former Turkish President Kenan Evren and former Air Force Commander Tahsin Sahinkaya have been jailed for life for their roles in the military coup of September 1980, according to state media.

The verdict was announced by an Ankara court on Wednesday.

Evren, 96, and Sahinkaya, 89, had been accused of setting the stage for a military intervention and then conducting the coup.

Evren, who also served as president after three years of military rule, never expressed regret for the coup which he always argued ended years of left-right street fighting that killed thousands.

"Should we feed them in prison for years instead of hanging them?" he asked in a speech in 1984, referring to those executed after the coup.

The coup set the stage for a military regime under which thousands were tortured, hundreds sentenced to death and many more vanished and ushered in an era of military dominance in Turkish politics.

Evren was elected president in 1982 and held the seat for the seven years that followed.

The country was governed by a military government until the parliamentary elections of November 1983.

Source: Al Jazeera and agencies