Aftershock of Başbuğ arrest rocks Turkey
Gen Başbuğ is put behind bars. DAILY NEWS photoThe arrest of Turkey’s former top soldier, İlker Başbuğ, has unleashed a wave of criticism against the government and raised fresh questions over the judiciary’s credibility, prompting the government to signal a possible change in pre-trial detention periods.
The former Chief of General Staff Gen. İlker Başbuğ was put in a ona-person cell in Silivri Prison on Jan. 7 following his arrest on charges of “leading an outlawed organization” and “attempting to overthrow the government by force” in the early hours of the day.
It is the first time a former top general has been arrested by a civilian court in Turkey.
“If I am being accused of bringing down the government with a couple of press statements and one or two Internet stories, this is very bitter,” the Hurriyet newspaper quoted Basbuğ as saying, citing court papers. “If I had such bad intentions, as the commander of a 700,000-strong force, there would have been other ways of doing it,” he said.
A specially authorized court issued the order for the arrest of the former top general in association with the ongoing Internet Memorandum case and other allegations pertaining to the “Action Plan to Combat Reactionism” trial.
“[I] worked together with Mr. President, Mr. Prime Minister and ministers of this government as a member of the National Security Board [MGK]. My establishing and leading an armed terrorist organization was not detected during this period, which is a point that needs to be highlighted,” Başbuğ said in court, according to media reports. “It is impossible to understand how state authorities failed to notice these activities at the time, as it is claimed I committed these acts while I was on active duty,” he said.
His appointment to the General Staff was also enacted by the ruling government, Başbuğ added.
“The 26th chief of General Staff of the Turkish Republic has been arrested on charges of establishing and leading a terrorist organization. The discretion [for this development] is up to the glorious Turkish nation,” he said, while being taken to prison.
Meanwhile, there are discussions on whether Başbuğ will be tried in the Supreme Council or in civilian court. Although Başbuğ’s lawyer İlker Sezer said Başbuğ should be tried in the Supreme Council, some lawyers said he may be tried in civilian court since his charges were not related to his post.
“He would be tried in the Supreme Council if the charges were related to his position. However, he is charged with ‘leading an outlawed organization’ and ‘attempting to overthrow the government by force’ and they are not directly related to that,” Mete Göksel, former public prosecutor, said, adding that other Armed Forces members, who were also being tried in the same case, were tried in civilian courts.
The ongoing Internet memorandum case refers to an alleged document by the General Staff about setting up 42 Internet sites to distribute propaganda against the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) and the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), as well as Greeks and Armenians.