Turkish chief of General Staff disturbed by coup case verdict, PM says
ANKARA - Hürriyet
Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan (L) speaks to Chief of Staff General Necdet Özel at the mausoleum of modern Turkey's founder Mustafa Kemal Atatürk before a meeting of the High Military Council in Ankara on Aug. 1. AFP photoTurkish Chief of General Staff Gen. Necdet Özel has been disturbed by the Ergenekon coup case’s verdict, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said, commenting on convicted retired Gen. İlker Başbuğ’s recent comments urging the top military chief to speak up against the Ergenekon coup case.
Erdoğan, however, also told reporters during a return flight from Turkmenistan on Aug. 15 that Başbuğ’s call to his successor to voice a reaction was inappropriate.
“[Özel] is not legally allowed to make such statements. Even so, I have personally witnessed very closely how much he is disturbed. But should [Özel] have exceeded the boundaries of the law?” Erdoğan said.
Başbuğ, who was chief of the General Staff between 2008 and 2010, was sentenced to life in prison on Aug. 5 on charges of attempting to topple the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) government. Following the ruling, Başbuğ wrote a letter in which he said he expected Özel to stand against “unfair, groundless and harsh attacks” targeting the Turkish Armed Forces.
“I hope [Başbuğ] would have made that statement in a [moment] of emotion because the [judicial] process is not over yet. These statements might provoke the judiciary in a negative direction,” Erdoğan said, while reiterating his own discomfort at Başbuğ’s judgment.
“It is not possible for me to accept the chief of staff with whom I worked with as the leader of a terrorist organization. Especially when it was possible to try him without arrest. I expressed [similar things] for the other [retired officers]. This is probably a very high reaction. It was also a risky one,” Erdoğan added.
Nineteen suspects, including Başbuğ, received sentences on coup plot charges in what was widely considered as the most important legal battle in recent Turkish history.
Those who stir unrest in September will pay ‘heavy price’
Erdoğan also said authorities would take due measures regarding claims that the government could face unrest across Turkey in September. “Those who stir unrest will pay the price heavily inside the boundaries of the law. But I will take off my hat to any demonstration which remains inside the law,” Erdoğan said.
The Turkish prime minister also explained that he had no intention to agree to widespread demands to reduce the 10 percent electoral threshold. “Turkey has suffered a lot from coalitions. Why should we put our country into difficulties again? If we pull down the threshold 2 percent, could any other party [enter] Parliament? No. So why the fuss?” Erdoğan said, stressing that the level of participation during the last elections had been particularly high.
He also disclosed that a couple of “surprises” could be expected in the democratization package prepared by the government as part as the ongoing Kurdish peace process, however criticizing the slownees of the outlawed Workers' Party's (PKK) militants withdrawal. "Only 20 percent have left Turkey, and they are mostly women and children," he said.
Erdoğan also expressed “sadness” over comparisons calling him a dictator. “There are elections in this country, everyone can form his own party. That’s what upsets us. It is my right to get sad if I am describe as a tense person,” Erdoğan said.