Turkish lawyers seek life sentence for ex-army chief: reports

Reuters News
Posted: Feb 02, 2012 1:08 PM
Turkish lawyers seek life sentence for ex-army chief: reports

By Daren Butler

ISTANBUL (Reuters) - Turkish state prosecutors are demanding a life sentence for the former head of the armed forces, General Ilker Basbug, on charges he attempted to overthrow the government, media reports said Thursday.

Basbug, military chief of staff from 2008 to 2010, is currently being held in a high-security prison and is the most senior officer to be charged over alleged plots against Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan's government.

The retired general, who is also accused of leading a terrorist group, may appear in court on February 9 if judges accept the indictment outlining the sentence demanded, state broadcaster TRT Haber said.

Court officials and Basbug's lawyer were not immediately available to comment. He has rejected the charges against him, calling them "tragicomic."

Basbug was sent to a prison outside Istanbul on January 6 after a court remanded him in custody while prosecutors completed their investigation.

The court subsequently rejected an appeal by his lawyer against his pre-trial detention and also rejected a request for Basbug to be tried in the supreme court.

The case against Basbug is focused on anti-government propaganda published on websites that the military was accused of running until 2008. The websites have been linked to an alleged ultra-nationalist network called "Ergenekon."

Hundreds of people have been jailed during an investigation into Ergenekon, including journalists, academics, lawyers and military officers in what some see as a crackdown on secularist critics of the government. The government denies such an agenda.

Since coming to power in 2002, Erdogan's government has eroded the influence of the generals, who once reigned supreme in Turkish politics, and the judiciary is now increasingly calling the military to account.

The secularist military has always had a tense relationship with the AK party due to the movement's Islamist roots. The party shuns the Islamist label and describes itself as democratic and socially conservative.

Media reports said Thursday that Ankara state prosecutors have launched an investigation into a military memorandum issued in April 2007 that was seen as a direct challenge to Erdogan's government. Basbug's predecessor General Yasar Buyukanit headed the military at that time.

A court last month accepted an indictment against former military chief and ex-president Kenan Evren for alleged crimes related to a 1980 military coup.

(Editing by Andrew Heavens)