Turkey's imprisoned former chief of staff tells opposition leader his conscience is clear
The CHP leader chose to skip his participation in the Victory Day reception hosted by President Abdullah Gül on Aug. 30, and symbolically visit Başbuğ instead on Aug. 31. DHA photoImprisoned former Chief of General Staff Gen. İlker Başbuğ, who was recently given a life sentence in the Ergenekon coup plot trial, has told main opposition leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu that “his conscience and his heart” are clear in terms of his conviction.
“[Başbuğ] is in high spirits. He said he knows that the accusations are untrue and has a clear conscience,” Republican People’s Party (CHP) leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu told reporters outside Istanbul’s Silivri Prison on Aug. 31, where he visited the former chief of staff.
“We have made this visit to satisfy the public’s conscience. We don’t believe he is guilty. He is a soldier who loves his country and its people. But above all, he’s a soldier who believes in democracy,” Kılıçdaroğlu said, adding that Başbuğ was very upset at being presented as someone who supported coups.
The CHP leader chose to skip his participation in the Victory Day reception hosted by President Abdullah Gül, symbolically visiting Başbuğ instead.
Kılıçdaroğlu said the military should not interfere in politics, but also that politics should not interfere in the military.
“You make a Land Forces commander the chief of General Staff, then you call him a member of a terrorist organization after he retires. Didn’t you know that when he was commanding the Land Forces, or when he held the position of chief of General Staff?” he asked.
Başbuğ was appointed chief of General Staff by the Supreme Military Council in 2008, after serving two years as the army’s Land Forces commander. He retired in 2010 and was arrested in January 2012.
Başbuğ was charged with “attempting to destroy the Turkish government or attempting to partially or completely prevent its functioning,” according to the indictment. The verdict is not final, as the process at the Supreme Court of Appeals has yet to be finalized.
The Aug. 5 verdict, which decided the fate of 275 suspects at the end of a five-year process, resulted in hundreds of years of imprisonment in total and several aggravated life sentences for a series of the country’s highest-ranking army members, journalists and academics.
Başbuğ has previously 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.
Cease-fire should be the priority in Syria
Meanwhile, Kılıçdaroğlu also criticized Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s stance on Syria, emphasizing that the first goal should be to establish a cease-fire between all parties fighting in the conflict.
“[We should] organize a Syria conference in Ankara. But instead we are calculating how to increase the blood and tears in Syria. Our prime minister should use more careful language,” he said.
Erdoğan has repeatedly slammed the main opposition party in the last few months, over its sending of a delegation to Damascus to meet Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. He has also blamed Syrians in contact with the CHP for the deadly May 11 bombings in the southern district of Reyhanlı.