PM Erdoğan, general must speak up against coup case, retired General Başbuğ writes
ISTANBUL - Hürriyet
‘Will the commander, who holds the position of chief of General Staff, keep his silence on this issue, to which Mr. Prime Minister already reacted to and rejected?’ wrote retired Chief of General Staff Gen İlker Başbuğ in his letter, addressing the current officeholder, Necdet Özel. AFP photoRetired Chief of General Staff Gen. İlker Başbuğ asked the current officeholder, Necdet Özel, whether he would remain silent about the convictions given to him and other generals in the Turkish military, and criticized Parliament for failing to prevent the verdicts by making the necessary legal amendments despite the prime minister’s earlier remarks, in a letter sent to daily Hürriyet on Aug. 9.
“It should not be forgotten that chief of General Staff is the commander of the Turkish Armed Forces. He has to protect this institution against unfair, groundless and harsh attacks. Today will the commander, who holds the position of chief of General Staff, keep his silence on this issue, to which Mr. Prime Minister already reacted to and rejected?” wrote Başbuğ, addressing Özel.
Başbuğ’s letter came after the landmark ruling released Aug. 5 in the Ergenekon coup plot case. The court ruled for the conviction of more than 250 people on charges of attempting to topple the government, while jailing Başbuğ for life.
Başbuğ recalls Erdoğan’s remarks on case
“Some of those at the Turkish General Staff headquarters have been [convicted for being] the managers of a terror organization and others have terror organization member status. The Turkish Armed Forces’ supreme headquarters is a terror organization’s headquarters [according to the verdict]. The Turkish Armed Forces’ commander is the manager of a terror organization. Let’s stop here, take a breath and ask justifiably these questions: Mr. Prime Minister said on HaberTürk channel on Feb. 1, 2013 that ‘Yes, it’s is a serious and unforgivable mistake to call active and retired generals members of a terror organization. If they [those who call generals terrorists] see their status as safe now, history will not forgive them. The Turkish Armed Forces is an organization but not a terror organization. It’s a constitutional organization.’ However, in a decision given around six months after this speech, the 13th High Criminal Court announced that some of the high-level officials at the General Staff headquarters are ‘members of a terror organization’ and some of them, including the chief of staff, are ‘managers of a terror organization.’ What will be thought and written about those holding the majority in Parliament failing to make the necessary amendments to prevent the historic mistake of the court and not making these amendments in the future?” asked Başbuğ.
Başbuğ cited Professor Sami Selçuk and Professor İzzet Özgenç’s remarks saying that the chief of General Staff is accountable to the prime minister and ruling out any terror accusations against the chief of General Staff.
“The chief of General Staff is appointed by the president upon the Cabinet’s suggestion. The public wonders about the opinions of the Cabinet members, who proposed the appointment of the 26th chief of General Staff and who worked with him, as well as Mr. President, who approved this proposal and worked with the chief of General Staff, over the remarks of these two respected legal experts,” Başbuğ wrote.
The verdict trial, which decided the fate of 275 suspects at the end of the five-year process, resulted in hundreds of years of imprisonment in total and several aggravated life sentences for a series of the country’s high-ranking army members, journalists and academics.
Başbuğ criticized the high security measures, disorganization and inhuman conditions during the trial in his letter. He wrote that the court’s decision not to allow the relatives of the suspects inside the courthouse increased the tension in the country.
“The court’s decision was mistaken in terms of its methods. It should be declared in an open trial and announced to the public with its justifications,” Başbuğ added. The courtroom was filled with deputies, press members and lawyers. Security measures were abnormally strict… the lawyers climbed on the bench to see the suspects. Were we being tried in our own country or in an enemy country? Or was the court seeing us as an enemy? What was the court expecting the suspects to do?” he added.
Başbuğ said some of the suspects could not hear their sentences and had to ask the court to repeat it.
Retired Gen. Başbuğ said he walked off the courtroom when the release of Osman Yıldırım, who was involved in several attacks, including the fatal State of Council shooting, was read.
“When the release of suspect Osman Yıldırım is read, I thought that it would be an insult to my personality to stay in this room and I stood and walked off the room while applauding the decision,” he said.