Former Turkish Chief of Staff and three MPs face aggravated life sentence in coup case

Former Turkish Chief of Staff and three MPs face aggravated life sentence in coup case

Former Turkish Chief of Staff and three MPs face aggravated life sentence in coup case

İlker Başbuğ. Hürriyet Photo

Prosecutors have demanded aggravated life imprisonment for a number of suspects including the former Chief of General Staff Gen. İlker Başbuğ, and Republican People’s Party lawmakers Mustafa Balbay, Mehmet Haberal and Sinan Aygün, as part of their final opinion in the alleged Ergenekon coup plot case.

The prosecutors also asked for aggravated life sentences for General Nusret Taşdeler, former Generals Hasan Iğsız, Hurşit Tolon and Şener Eruygur, as well as journalist Tuncay Özkan, on accusations of attempting to overthrow the government by force, in a case that has left a mark on Turkey over the last four years.

In the 2,271-page opinion, read in court by Prosecutor Mehmet Ali Pekgüzel, the prosecutors said there was enough evidence to prove the existence of the Ergenekon terrorist organization and called on the court to punish the suspects accordingly. The prosecutors also asked for seven-and-a-half to 15 years in prison for 96 of the suspects.

The case was opened after 27 hand grenades were found in a shanty house in Istanbul in 2007.

Life sentences

The Workers’ Party’s (İP) jailed leader Doğu Perinçek, former İnönü University Rector Prof. Dr. Fatih Hilmioğlu, former Uludağ University Rector Prof. Mustafa Yurtkuran, former Higher Education Board (YÖK) head Kemal Gürüz, former general Levent Ersöz and former Istanbul University rector Kemal Alemdaroğlu were also among at least 24 suspects facing aggravated life sentences.

Başbuğ has been imprisoned at Silivri Prison for over a year, where he is being held for his alleged leadership of Ergenekon. The prosecutor, however, asked for Başbuğ and others to be acquitted of the leadership charges.

Balbay, the former editor-in-chief of daily Cumhuriyet, has been imprisoned since Feb. 28, 2011. Balbay, along with Haberal and Aygün, was elected to Parliament from the CHP in the elections on June 12, 2011. While Balbay and Haberal have yet to take their parliamentary oaths and are jailed pending charges, Aygün took his oath and is protected by parliamentary immunity. He is being tried without arrest.

Gen. Tolon was arrested in July 2008 but was released pending trial in 2009 due to ailing health. The court ordered his arrest again in January after Pekgüzel requested the arrest on “serious suspicions of a criminal act.”

Judge criticism

Nazlı Çubuklu, the daughter and lawyer of Ergenekon suspect ex-general Hıfzı Çubuklu, said, “The court skipped the evidence assessment stage and went on with the prosecutors’ opinion.”

The prosecutor asked for seven-and-a-half to 15 years in prison for 96 of the suspects, for being members of Ergenekon. This list included Sedat Peker, Semih Tufan Gülaltay, Mehmet Bora Perinçek, Ali Yasak, Emin Şirin, Güler Kömürcü Öztürk and Tanju Güvendiren.

Prosecutors also demanded four life sentences for Alparslan Aslan, who allegedly entered the Council of State court and killed one of the country’s top judges and wounded four others, in a 2006 attack that has since been linked to a broader crackdown on Ergenekon, while asking for the acquittal of Salih Kunter and Süleyman Esen on charges related to the attack.

Prosecutors asked for the cases of five suspects, including Bedrettin Dalan and former generals Mustafa Bakıcı and Turan Çömez, who are on the run, to be separated from the remaining suspects.

Prosecutors seek six lifetime imprisonments for retired general Veli Küçük, one for coup attempt, one for soliciting murder regarding the Council of State attack in May 2006 during which a judge was killed, and four for attempted murders. Alparslan Arslan, the gunman in the attack, faces four lifetime imprisonments.

Some 275 suspects, including 67 suspects who are currently under arrest, are on trial in the Ergenekon case.