Retired Turkish General Set to Be Tried on Terrorism Charges
The trial of a Turkish former armed forces chief accused of heading a terrorist group is due to begin on Monday.
General Ilker Basbug branded the case against him as tragi-comic when he was first detained in January. While bewildered by the accusations, he said he was not shocked, given how prosecutors have pursued other officers in the past three years.
Basbug, chief of staff from 2008 to 2010, is accused of being a leader of a shadowy network dubbed “Ergenekon”, said to be behind a string of alleged, but as yet unproven, plots against the government of Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan.
Ilkay Sezer, the general’s lawyer, is expected to ask for the case to be transferred to the Supreme Court, as befitting a state official of Basbug’s seniority, though earlier requests were rejected.
The 68-year-old retiree is the most senior officer among hundreds of secularists facing conspiracy and terrorism charges.
For many Turks it had appeared increasingly likely that the special prosecutors, given free rein to investigate by the government, would work their way to the top of the military chain of command in their hunt for anti-government conspiracies.
During his pre-trial detention Basbug has shared a cell with two other generals in the top-security prison at Silivri, west of Istanbul, where a courtroom has been specially built to hear Ergenekon- and “Sledgehammer”-related cases.
War game or blueprints for a coup?
Police say they discovered Ergenekon when they seized a secret arms cache in 2007, yet many Turks still doubt it exists.
Basbug is just a witness in the Sledgehammer case, which revolves around a 2003 seminar that prosecutors say contained blueprints for a coup, though the military says it was just a war game. Some 365 people are being tried in the case.