Former top Gen. Özkök disturbed by allegations

Former top Gen. Özkök disturbed by allegations

ANKARA - Hürriyet Daily News
Former top Gen. Özkök disturbed by allegations

Former Chief of Gen. Staff Hilmi Özkök says error charges pressed against his successor İlker Başbuğ are disturbing.

Former Chief of General Staff Hilmi Özkök, credited for good ties with the ruling party, described the terror charges pressed against his successor İlker Başbuğ as “disturbing” and warned of a dangerous polarization between state institutions.

“I am upset and disturbed by the allegations [Başbuğ] is a terrorist organization leader. Even if he is acquitted, he will have been slandered,” Özkök said in remarks to daily Cumhuriyet.

Başbuğ’s arrest is a “grave” measure and he should be freed pending trial, he said. There is also a need for amendments in the anti-terror law to narrow and clarify the definition of terrorism, Özkök added.

Özkök is the latest high-profile figure to step into the simmering debate Başbuğ’s arrest unleashed last week. President Abdullah Gül is already at odds with the Justice and Development Party (AKP) over what court should try the retired commander, while Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan is unhappy with the judiciary for having decided to keep him in custody.

Özkök lamented the investigations into alleged coup plots and the botched air raid at the Iraqi border that killed 34 civilians had become the subject of “political exploitation,” straining ties between state institutions.

“Relations between institutions have become too heated. They need to cool off, and this is a task for the president and political leaders. A more sober-minded relationship is needed as soon as possible,” he said.

Özkök said Başbuğ was “intelligent, talented, accommodating and successful” and voiced hope he would be cleared of the charges pressed as part of an investigation into anti-government Internet sites, which the military allegedly sponsored.

In further comments, Özkök asserted Islamist reactionary remains a threat for Turkey, regardless of whether it is mentioned as such in the National Security Policy Document. He cautioned, however, that Islamist reactionary must not be associated with specific parties or governments.

Gül’s view ‘not important’
Brushing aside Gül’s suggestion Başbuğ should stand trial at the Supreme Council, a senior AKP official said yesterday personal opinions on the issue were of no value.

“The opinions of ordinary citizens, the president or me are not important. What matters is the decision of the court,” AKP Deputy Group Chair Mustafa Elitaş said. He played down suggestions of a rift with the president. “Differing opinions are normal in a democracy,” he said.

Deputy Prime Minister Bekir Bozdağ also said it was up to judges to decide whether Başbuğ would stand trial at the Supreme Council or at a special-authority court, voicing hope his trial would “proceed speedily to enlighten the facts.”

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