Turkey's former top commander Başbuğ says he wants retrial, not amnesty
Tufan TÜRENÇ ISTANBUL / Hürriyet
DAILY NEWS photo.İlker Başbuğ, Turkey’s former chief of staff who was convicted last year in a coup plot, has demanded a retrial rather than an amnesty amid talk of a re-evaluation of his case, noting that a pardon would “hurt” him.
“Being released due to illness or advanced age would hurt us, as we have younger friends here,” Başbuğ told a group of Press Council members who visited him at the Silivri prison Feb. 6.
“Nor do we demand an amnesty. ... It would also hurt us. However, we have people here who are really sick. For instance, Levent Ersöz, Fatih Hilmioğlu and other sick friends should be released immediately. For us, the proudest way is a retrial and acquittal that would be the proof of our innocence,” he said.
Başbuğ was sentenced to life on charges of leading a terrorist organization. The verdict is still awaiting a final decision from the Supreme Court of Appeals.
“Dec. 17  has become a very important date. Metin Feyzioğlu, the head of the Union of Turkish Bar Associations [TBB], came here. He spoke to [Gen. Bilgin] Balanlı, [politician Doğu] Perinçek and [journalist Tuncay] Özkan [who were also convicted in the Ergenekon case], explaining his proposal [for a retrial]. We all approved his formula,” he said.
“Turkey is going through an extraordinary period, and it’s not possible to get out of here with ordinary measures,” Başbuğ said when asked about the government’s move to abolish specially authorized courts.
“Feyzioğlu’s proposals consist of an extraordinary way. Nobody is running away from a retrial, but this trial must be fair because everyone believes that they will be acquitted after a fair trial. We want the trial to be fair and without arrest. If old indictments will be used as a base, then the retrial will also not provide any benefit,” Başbuğ said.
In late December 2013, a top adviser to the prime minister alleged that elements within the state – believed to belong to the Fethullah Gülen community – fabricated evidence against suspects in the coup-plot cases.
Başbuğ also has a pending application at the Constitutional Court for his release and a retrial. The top court ordered the release of lawmakers in prison and is strict on long detentions and arrests.
“If a positive verdict comes, it will present a precedent for others,” Başbuğ said about his application. “This is why I find it important. Look, the important thing here is to protect your health. So, each evening, we pray to God to preserve our health and to make us able to wake up healthy next day. And I also miss Bodrum and its Meteor Beach, its sea... Of course, also my family, my wife, my children and my relatives.”
Başbuğ said he might not have been happy if he had spent the last two years as a free man.
“[That is] because my friends are serving their sentence here,” he said. “How could I be happier outside? Moreover, the fact that I [was caught up] in this case revealed how unserious this case was. I believe that this was another benefit. This is why I’m comfortable both with my conscience and my soul.”
The delegation of the Press Council also filed a request to visit Hilmioğlu, a former rector of Malatya University who was sentenced to 23 years in the Ergenekon coup plot case, but authorities at Silivri Prison said the ailing prisoner had gone to Çapa Hospital for medical checks.
The delegation, however, was able to meet Hilmioğlu, as he returned from prison earlier than expected. Noting that he had lost 15 kilograms, Hilmioğlu explained that the Constitutional Court would take upcoming medical reports into account and release him on health grounds.
“There are other patients here. They should also be released. I cannot be satisfied as long as they are imprisoned,” he said.
President Abdullah Gül earlier said he was waiting for the medical reports to decide on a possible amnesty for Hilmioğlu.