İstanbul court accepts indictment seeking life for ex-military chief

İstanbul court accepts indictment seeking life for ex-military chief

An indictment seeking aggravated life imprisonment for former Chief of General Staff retired Gen. İlker Bashbug on coup charges has been accepted by an İstanbul court Today`s Zaman reported

Bashbug was put behind bars by an İstanbul court after he testified last month as a suspect in an investigation into an alleged Internet campaign to discredit Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan's Justice and Development Party (AK Party). Turkey has seen retired generals jailed in coup cases over the past few years, but Gen. Bashbug, who retired in 2010, is the highest-ranking officer to be involved in legal proceedings thus far. Bashbug was placed in Silivri Prison, where most of the coup suspects have been sent.

The indictment, submitted to the İstanbul 13th High Criminal Court last month, accuses Bashbug of "establishing or administering a terrorist organization" and "seeking to unseat the government of the Republic of Turkey by force." In his defense, Bashbug denied all the charges against him.

"The person who is accused of these charges is the 26th chief of General Staff of the Turkish Republic. I think it is important to note this for history. As the chief of General Staff, I was the commander of the [Turkish Armed Forces] TSK. The TSK is one of the most respected and strongest armed forces in the world. Accusing somebody who led such an army of establishing and administering a terrorist organization is really tragicomic," he said.

The investigation in which Başbuğ is implicated concerns allegations that the TSK set up 42 websites to disseminate anti-government propaganda. Dozens of suspects, including Başbuğ, are currently accused of having started an online propaganda campaign against the AK Party with the goal of instilling in the public a fear that the government was attempting to instate a religious order based on Islamic law.

The decision by the İstanbul 13th High Criminal Court to accept the indictment against Başbuğ comes on the heels of another decision by the Supreme Court of Appeals Chief Public Prosecutor's Office on Tuesday to reject a request for Bashbug to be tried by the Supreme State Council instead of a specially authorized court. Bashbug's lawyer, İlkay Sezer, filed a request last month for the trial of his client to take place at the Supreme State Council (Yüce Divan), a title the Constitutional Court assumes when trying ministers, prime ministers, chiefs of General Staff and other high-ranking bureaucrats.

Evaluating the lawyer's request, the office said on Tuesday that the charges leveled against Başbuğ are not related to his profession, but are "terrorism charges." The office added that the authority to try Başbuğ lies with specially authorized courts and rejected the request.

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