Turkey's ex-army chief decries ‘smear campaign’ against him
DAILY NEWS photo, Selahattin SönmezFormer Chief of General Staff Gen. İlker Başbuğ, who has been sentenced to life in prison as part of the Ergenekon coup plot trial, has claimed that he is the target of a smear campaign seeking to legitimize a case that he dubs “obviously unrighteous.”
“Some circles who remain desperate against the realities and people’s reactions are continuing to cruelly engage in ‘black propaganda’ against me. I am myself accused of doing ‘black propaganda,’” he said in a statement, Anadolu Agency reported.
In the statement, Başbuğ wrote that those found guilty in the Ergenkon coup case verdicts are being slandered in media reports, as the sentences are not regarded as “legitimate” in the eyes of the public.
“Most importantly, prosecutors’ claims that a chief of staff is a ‘terrorist’ and a ‘terrorist organization leader,’ the judges’ acceptance of these claims, and the content of claims of attempting to bring down the government by force or preventing it from fulfilling its duties, are greeted with astonishment, surprise and even rage by their target. But they are also found ridiculous and unreasonable by the international public. Those who are bothered by this are trying to convince the public of the opposite,” he added.
To support his argument, the ex-army chief said a recent survey showed that 70 percent of the public did not accept accusations that he was a terrorist organization leader or coup conductor, “neither in their minds nor in their consciences.”
Başbuğ also cited the European Union’s recently unveiled progress report on Turkey’s membership.
Recalling the fact that the report criticized the poor quality of the indictments in the case, he said that “these points indicate there is no fair trial in Turkey.”
However, he also stressed that he “remains strong” against all of these claims. “Even when they say ‘you did this’ for the things we didn’t do, when they try to make us responsible for an issue that we don’t have any relation to, when they cast aspersions on us over a photograph or a meeting, when they even treat us unrighteously and torture us, they won’t be able to break us down,” he said.
Başbuğ was given a life sentence in a landmark verdict in the Ergenekon coup plot case on Aug. 5.
Some 275 suspects were given sentences on the day, receiving hundreds of years of imprisonment in total, with many high-ranking army members, journalists and academics being handed aggravated life sentences.