Turkey ex-Army chief rejects coup plot charges

Turkish ex-Army chief Ilker Basbug rejected terrorism charges against him.

Istanbul: Turkish ex-Army chief Ilker Basbug on Tuesday rejected terrorism charges against him and refused to
mount a defence in his trial for seeking to overthrow the
government, the Anatolia news agency said.

"I am astounded at being accused of leading a terrorist
organisation," the retired general told a court in Silivri,
outside Istanbul, where his trial opened yesterday.

Basbug said the court did not have the jurisdiction to
try him, and said he would not present a defence or answer any

"To try and accuse a head of the armed forces of crimes
of this nature is the result of a comedy of incompetence," the
68-year-old career soldier said in his first statement to the

"The charge sheet has no credibility from my point of

Basbug went on trial yesterday on charges of leading a
terrorist group dubbed the Ergenekon network accused of
plotting to overthrow the government led by Prime Minister
Recep Tayyip Erdogan`s Islamic-rooted Justice and Development
Party (AKP).

Chief of staff of the armed forces from 2008 to 2010,
Basbug has been in custody since January and risks life in
prison if convicted in a case that has inflamed tensions
between the government and the powerful military.

Yesterday, the judges rejected a demand by his lawyer for
the case to be referred to the Supreme Court.

Critics accuse Erdogan`s government of launching the
far-reaching probe as a tool to silence its opponents and
impose authoritarianism, claims it denies.

Tensions have been building for years between the army
and the Erdogan administration in power since 2002.

The military, which considers itself as the guardian of
secularism in modern-day Turkey and is the second-largest
force in NATO after the United States, has carried out three
coups -- in 1960, 1971 and 1980.

It also forced the removal of a coalition government led
by an Islamist prime minister in 1997.

But the army has lost power following various
AKP-implemented reforms, and dozens of active and retired
military officers including generals, as well as academics,
journalists and lawyers have been detained in the Ergenekon

A statement issued by relatives of the detained officers
has called for the charges to be dropped, accusing the Turkish
judiciary of "falsifying evidence".


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