Ayşe ARMANISTANBUL - Hürriyet
Former Chief of General Staff Gen. İlker Başbuğ has said the coup plot charges that led to his conviction are “immoral,” issuing his first major comments since rumors began circulating that the Ergenekon convictions might have been fabricated.
“As the Chief of General Staff, I was very open to the public, the government and the media,” Başbuğ said in an interview with Hürriyet. “What I’ve done and what I’ve said is obvious. I feel ashamed of the coup plot charges.”
Başbuğ was jailed for life in the Ergenekon coup trial pending appeal. Scores of army officers, journalists and lawyers were also imprisoned for their role in the alleged plot to topple the government
“The main point in democracy is the takeover of the government by elections, by democratic means,” Başbuğ said. “Accusing a commander, who in a speech on April 14, 2009, mentioned democracy 45 times, of plotting a coup, can only be immoral.”
Başbuğ said the problems in the judicial system had become obvious, referring to recent remarks by Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.
“The prime minister said in his party’s group meeting: ‘We now see more clearly that huge question marks hang on some trials in the past. We can today see clearly how people were convicted through fake letters, illegal wiretapping, fake evidence and some manipulated judges and prosecutors.’ It is the prime minister saying these things. The actual thing to do is to reveal those behind these ‘plots’ and put them on a fair trial,” he said.
Başbuğ said putting the top commander of the military on trial as a “terrorist gang leader” was unacceptable.
“No country around the world has witnessed a Chief of General Staff who is both the commander of the military and the leader of a terrorist organization,” the ex-top commander said. “Unfortunately, we saw it in Turkey in 2012. Almost the entire Turkish nation decried such an accusation of a chief of General Staff. I just pity those who pinned such charges on me.”
Başbuğ recently published a book, “Suçlamalara Karşı Gerçekler (Facts against Accusations),” eliciting great interest.
“One of the reasons I wrote this book was to show the background of the ‘plots’ in specially authorized courts and the ‘truth,’” Başbuğ said. “The interest shown in the book proves how willing the Turkish nation is to learn the facts.”
When asked about how he found the power to resist, Başbuğ said it was “the power of knowing that we are right.”
“Another factor is the training we received in the Turkish military,” he said. “‘Not being honest’ and ‘lying’ top the list of unforgivable offenses in the army. Our guide in life is everlasting commander Mustafa Kemal Atatürk. We get our power from him and the trust and love from the Turkish nation.”
Başbuğ was given a life sentence in a landmark verdict in the Ergenekon coup plot case on Aug. 5, 2013. The court did not reveal its reasoning and decided on the continuation of the arrest of Başbuğ as a precaution until its reasoning is released. Sezer, however, said the court had to announce its reasoning for the continuation of Başbuğ’s arrest monthly, but failed to do so and demanded the release of Başbuğ.
Some 275 suspects were given sentences in August 2013, receiving hundreds of years of imprisonment in total, with many high-ranking army members, journalists and academics being given aggravated life sentences.