General Basbug’s request for trial by Supreme State Council rejected
A Turkish court rejected a request by former military chief retired Gen. İlker Basbug, who is currently jailed in connection with a coup plot probe, to be tried by the Supreme State Council, a title the Constitutional Court assumes when it tries top state officials, instead of a specially authorized court as the trial of the former military chief began at an İstanbul court on Monday, Today's Zaman reported.
İlkay Sezer, Basbug's lawyer, filed a request for his client, who is currently jailed in a coup plot probe, to be tried by the Supreme State Council as the trial of Basbug began on Monday. However, the 13th High Criminal Court in İstanbul rejected the request. Sezer had earlier filed a request with the Supreme Court of Appeals Chief Public Prosecutor's Office in January for the trial of his client to take place at the Supreme State Council (Yuce Divan), a title the Constitutional Court assumes when it tries ministers, prime ministers, chiefs of General Staff and other high-ranking bureaucrats.
However, upon evaluating the lawyer's request the office decided last month that the charges leveled against Basbug are not related to his profession but are "terrorism charges." The office said the authority to try Basbug belongs lies with a specially authorized court and rejected the request.
Basbug was arrested earlier this month by the İstanbul 12th High Criminal Court after he testified 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). Soon after his arrest, a debate began over where he should stand trial.
The former chief of General Staff faces charges of "establishing or administering a terrorist organization" and "seeking to unseat the government of the Republic of Turkey by force." While some jurists say the charges he faces are not related to his office, others argue they are. Basbug chatted with family and friends during a break, telling them he was in good health, and exchanged salutes with former colleagues.
One told him; "The Turkish army has never been defeated."
Basbug replied: "Of course! All this will pass."
Basbug branded the case against him as tragicomic when he was first detained in January.
Dressed in a dark suit and tie, he was the first of 29 defendants to confirm his identity to the bench of three judges. His answers to judges were to the point. Asked where he was living, Basbug said: "Since January 6, I've been staying at Silivri prison, cell block number five."
He gave his monthly income as TL7,000 ($3,900), and said he paid rent of around 1,000 lira on his residence in İstanbul's Fenerbahce neighborhood.
Waiting for proceedings to begin, the 68-year-old retiree drummed his fingers impatiently, and sipped from a plastic water bottle on the table, without opening the leather document folder before him.
The 100 or so spectators in the courtroom were dominated by well-dressed men and women from Basbug's generation. Basbug waved to several co-defendants who called out to their former chief, and raised a clenched fist as a sign of solidarity with one old colleague also on trial.
A subsequent request by lawyer Sezer for the trial to be held by a specially authorized court in Ankara because the document regarding the propaganda websites was allegedly prepared there was also rejected by the court, which took an objection by prosecutor Mehmet Ali Pekguzel into consideration.
Speaking to reporters in front of the Silivri courthouse later in the day, lawyer Sezer said Basbug will make a "historic" defense in court, adding that the participation of Basbug's family members and friends from the military at Monday's hearing had boosted the morale of the former military chief.
Pekguzel then read the 39-page indictment, in which Basbug is the sole suspect.
In the meantime, nine individuals who were detained on Friday as part of a probe into Ergenekon were referred to the İstanbul Courthouse on Monday after their interrogation at the İstanbul Police Department.
The suspects, who include three prison guards and a lawyer, are accused of exerting pressure on a secret witnesses in the trial to change their deposition. The suspects were expected to be questioned by prosecutors at the İstanbul Courthouse.