Retired chief of general staff Gen. İlker Başbuğ was among 275 defendants, 67 currently under arrest, in a case that has gone on for nearly four-and-a-half years, in which prosecutors are accusing the suspects of attempting to stage a coup as part of the "Ergenekon organization". Prosecutors summed up their case on Monday, requesting aggravated life sentences for 64 defendants including former chief of general staff İlker Başbuğ, CHP Deputy Mustafa Balbay, Prof. Dr. Mehmet Haberal and Sinan Aygün. The defendants include academics, politicians and journalists, as well as former army officers. State prosecutors also requested the release of six detained suspects and issued warrants for the arrests of 20 others who had previously been released pending trial. However, the court rejected any requests for releases or further arrests and postponed the trial to April 8.
Prosecutors presented their final opinion at yesterday's hearing in a 2,271-page summary which was read aloud by three prosecutors in turns over a total five hours. "It has become clear that the Ergenekon terrorist group exists," state prosecutor Mehmet Ali Pekguzel told the court located within a huge prison complex at Silivri, west of Istanbul. The statement drew wide reaction from attorneys and defendants in the courtroom. Attorneys argued it was too early to be reading out the final opinion; however Court Chairman Hasan Hüseyin Özese announced that the text would be read aloud in court. While some attorneys chose to evacuate the courtroom, defendants were prohibited from leaving.
The existence of Ergenekon, its structure and activities were detailed in the 2,271 written opinion, which also listed the events of progression from the uncovering of evidence to their connections to the defendants on trial. The defendants will now have the opportunity to make their final defenses, a process which could take another couple of months, before a verdict is announced. Ergenekon is accused of being at the heart of political violence, extra-judicial killings and bomb attacks which scarred Turkey in recent decades - an embodiment of anti-democratic forces which Erdoğan says he has fought to stamp out.
COUNCIL OF STATE ATTACK
The final opinion also concludes that the Ergenekon terrorist organization was responsible for both the Council of State attack and the bombing of Cumhuriyet newspaper. In connection to the Council of State attack, two life sentences each were requested for perpetrator Alparslan Arslan, retired Brigadier General Veli Küçük and retired Yüzbaşı Muzaffer Tekin.
Prosecutors are also requesting aggravated life sentences be served to 29 military members including 13 generals, two of which are currently active. The high level military members for which life sentences are sought are: former Chief of General Staff retired Gen. İlker Başbuğ, Supreme Military Council member Gen. Nusret Taşdeler, retired Gen. Hasan Iğsız, former Gendarmerie General Commander retired Gen. Şener Eruygur, former 1st Army Commander retired Gen. Hurşit Tolon, retired Lieutenant Gen. İsmail Hakkı Pekin, retired Lieutenant Gen. Mehmet Eröz, retired Adm. Mehmet Otuzbiroğlu, Gen. Hıfzı Çubuklu, former Gendarmerie Intelligence Chief retired Brigadier Gen. Levent Ersöz, retired Brigadier Gen. Veli Küçük, retired Adm. Alaettin Sevim, former General Staff Legal Advisor retired Gen. Muhittin Erdal Şenel, colonels Dursun Çiçek, Hasan Atilla Uğur, Fikri Karadağ, Cemal Gökçeoğlu, Fuat Selvi, Hulusi Gülbahar, Ziya İlker Göktaş, Sedat Özüer, Orhan Güçlü, Mustafa Koç, Cihandar Hasanhanoğlu, retired Lieutenant Col. Mustafa Dönmez, retired lieutenants Hasan Ataman Yıldırım, Murat Uslukılıç and retired Sergeant Oktay Yıldırım.
BAŞBUĞ: I CANNOT STOMACH THE ACCUSATIONS
Speaking with Faruk Terzioğlu, President of the Erzurum Bar Association from Silivri prison yesterday, former chief of general staff Gen. İlker Başbuğ stated, "These accusations are toying with my pride. I am the Republic of Turkey's 26th Chief of General Staff. To be accused of being a member of an armed terrorist organization is a tragicomedy. I know what the verdict will be. I leave it all up to the discretion of the Turkish public and I will not be providing a defense," said Başbuğ, who also expressed that he was unable to stomach the accusations against him.