Turkish court sentences general for insulting Erdogan

Reuters News
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Posted: Oct 25, 2011 6:56 PM
Turkish court sentences general for insulting Erdogan

ISTANBUL (Reuters) - A retired general was given a suspended sentence of almost a year in jail on Tuesday for insulting Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan, state run Anatolian news agency reported.

The case against General Saldiray Berk, who is also a suspect in an alleged coup plot, was filed by the prime minister.

Erdogan's lawyer petitioned the Ankara prosecutor's office last year, citing a speech Berk gave in 2008 during a visit to an village in eastern Turkey.

Berk was accused of asking his audience: "Do you know the prime minister has sold the country?"

Finding Berk guilty of the charge, the court, in the eastern province of Erzincan, suspended the 11 month and 20 day sentence for five years.

Berk, a former commander of the third army, was forced to retire in August due to the conspiracy case against him. He could be jailed for more than 12 years, if he is found guilty of being part of a plot to oust Erdogan from power.

The case against him formed part of an investigation into an alleged anti-government network called Ergenekon.

The military has traditionally regarded itself as the guardian of the secular state envisaged by the republic's revered founder Mustafa Kemal Ataturk.

The country's generals have clashed several times with Erdogan since his religiously conservative AK Party first came to power in Muslim Turkey a decade ago.

But, by using legislation meant to make Turkey's democracy fit for membership of the European Union, Erdogan has succeeded in curbing the generals' power, lessening chances for a repeat of the coups that have punctuated the country's history since 1960.

Erdogan filed and won similar cases in the past, including one against a cartoonist who depicted him as a cat. The cartoonist was fined 5,000 lira ($2,793).

(Writing by Ece Toksabay; Editing by Simon Cameron-Moore)