Skip to main content

Former military chief arrested in alleged plot against Turkish government

By the CNN Wire Staff
updated 10:51 AM EST, Fri January 6, 2012
Gen. Ilker Basbug has been charged in a plot to overthrow Turkey's government (file photo).
Gen. Ilker Basbug has been charged in a plot to overthrow Turkey's government (file photo).
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Gen. Ilker Basbug is the highest-ranking officer to be accused
  • The Islamic-backed government alleges a military plot
  • Critics say the government wants to emasculate the military

Istanbul (CNN) -- Turkey's former military chief was behind bars Friday pending trial for his alleged role in a plot to overthrow the government.

Gen. Ilker Basbug is the highest-ranking officer to be accused in a long-running tussle between the Islamic-backed government and Turkey's secular establishment, defended by the military.

Basbug was arrested and taken to Silivri prison after testifying for seven hours Thursday in an Istanbul court, Basbug's lawyer Ilkay Sezer told reporters.

He stands accused of involvement with the so-called Ergenekon network, a nationalist group that prosecutors say created dozens of websites disseminating propaganda aimed at bringing down the government of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

"The 26th chief of general staff of the Turkish Republic is unfortunately arrested based on charges related to eliminating the government of Turkish Republic and establishing and leading a terrorist organization," Sezer said.

Basbug retired as commander of the Turkish armed forces in 2010. He is the latest in a long line of military staff who stands accused of plotting against the government.

A probe was launched in 2007, after the discovery of a stash of grenades and bomb-making materials in Istanbul.

It led to waves of arrests and several court cases involving both civilians and former and active-duty officers.

More than 300 people have been arrested in connection with Ergenekon. Among them are 97 journalists, according to the Turkish Press Union.

The government's crackdown has polarized Turkish society, which has seen the military overthrow four governments in the past 50 years.

Some view the government's actions in curbing military power as important steps to democratization in Turkey, a candidate for European Union membership.

But critics say the investigation is a political witch hunt. They accuse Erdogan, an observant Muslim, of silencing his opponents and emasculating the secular establishment, including the military.

Last July, Turkey's top four military officers resigned after a squabble with the government over the fate of officers jailed in the alleged plot against the Justice and Development Party.

Friday, Turkish President Abdullah Gul told journalists that Basbug's arrest did not prove guilt.

"No one can be declared guilty before a decision of the court," Gul said. "Everyone is equal in the court of law. This is a legal process."

CNN's Yesim Comert and Talia Kayali contributed to this report.

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
updated 10:26 AM EST, Wed February 6, 2013
Advocates say the exam includes unnecessarily invasive and irrelevant procedures -- like a so-called "two finger" test.
updated 7:09 PM EST, Tue February 5, 2013
Supplies of food, clothing and fuel are running short in Damascus and people are going hungry as the civil war drags on.
updated 1:01 PM EST, Wed February 6, 2013
Supporters of Richard III want a reconstruction of his head to bring a human aspect to a leader portrayed as a murderous villain.
updated 10:48 AM EST, Tue February 5, 2013
Robert Fowler spent 130 days held hostage by the same al Qaeda group that was behind the Algeria massacre. He shares his experience.
updated 12:07 AM EST, Wed February 6, 2013
As "We are the World" plays, a video shows what looks like a nuclear attack on the U.S. Jim Clancy reports on a bizarre video from North Korea.
The relationship is, once again, cold enough to make Obama's much-trumpeted "reset" in Russian-U.S. relations seem thoroughly off the rails.
Ten years on, what do you think the Iraq war has changed in you, and in your country? Send us your thoughts and experiences.
updated 7:15 AM EST, Tue February 5, 2013
Musician Daniela Mercury has sold more than 12 million albums worldwide over a career span of nearly 30 years.
Photojournalist Alison Wright travelled the world to capture its many faces in her latest book, "Face to Face: Portraits of the Human Spirit."
updated 7:06 PM EST, Tue February 5, 2013
Europol claims 380 soccer matches, including top level ones, were fixed - as the scandal widens, CNN's Dan Rivers looks at how it's done.
updated 7:37 AM EST, Wed February 6, 2013
That galaxy far, far away is apparently bigger than first thought. The "Star Wars" franchise will get two spinoff movies, Disney announced.
updated 2:18 AM EST, Fri February 8, 2013
It's an essential part of any trip, an activity we all take part in. Yet almost none of us are any good at it. Souvenir buying is too often an obligatory slog.
ADVERTISEMENT