Turkish President Gül ‘sad’ over former top commander’s conviction

Turkish President Gül ‘sad’ over former top commander’s conviction

Turkish President Gül ‘sad’ over former top commander’s conviction

Turkish President Abdullah Gül speaking to reporters after performing morning prayers on the first day of the Eid al-Fitr at the Emirgan Mosque in Istanbul. DHA photo

Turkey’s President Abdullah Gül has expressed sadness over the conviction of a former top commander in a coup plot court case, while also underlining that the judicial process regarding the case had not been completed yet, thus the conviction was not a final judgment about the former commander.

Remarks by Gül delivered on Aug. 8, were the first public comment from him concerning the landmark ruling released on Aug. 5 in the Ergenekon coup plot case. The court ruled for conviction of more than 250 people on charges of attempting to topple the government, while jailing retired Gen. İlker Başbuğ, a former Chief of the General Staff, and former military chief for life.

Speaking to reporters after performing morning prayers on the first day of the Eid al-Fitr at the Emirgan Mosque in Istanbul, Gül was reminded of the fact that the ruling in the Ergenekon case was released and that his “colleague” Başbuğ had been sentenced to life-time imprisonment and was asked about his “assessment.”

“Of course, the judicial process is not over,” Gül was quoted as saying by Anadolu Agency in response, as he underlined that the related judicial process was a “long” one.

“There is the phase regarding the Supreme Court of Appeals, that’s to say the appeal phase, in order for these charges and penalties to become finalized. Additionally, since Turkey recognizes the international law as well, there is the European Court of Human Rights. Without a doubt, I feel sadness about Mr. Chief of General Staff with whom we worked together,” Gül went on to say.

“But as I said, these are not final [judgments]. The means of law are always open. We hope that in the upcoming period, both at the Supreme Court of Appeals stage, and at the other stages – if there are – all faults will be corrected and decisions which will satisfy the conscience of the public opinion will be released,” the president said.

Başbuğ served as the chief of the General Staff from 2008 through 2010, leaving this post to enter retirement on account of the age limit. Gül has been the president since 2007.

Among scores of officers, journalists, academics and opposition politicians sentenced to imprisonment for plotting to overthrow the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) government, which is in power since 2002 and led by Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan since 2003, the most controversial verdict appeared to be the life sentence imposed on Başbuğ.

Ruling is not final: Erdoğan

Elsewhere in Istanbul, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan joined Gül in emphasizing that the appeal means for the ruling would be exhausted, as he also stood firm about what he said at the time about Başbuğ and his alleged involvement in a “terrorist organization.”

“At the time, I said it clearly and there isn’t any drift in my conviction of that time,” Erdoğan told reporters when reminded of his previous remarks about Başbuğ and the court ruling. Back in February, Erdoğan himself said it was “unforgivable” to describe Başbuğ as a member of a “terrorist” organization.

Speaking after performing morning prayers at the Süleymaniye Mosque of Istanbul, echoing Gül, Erdoğan also underlined that the Aug. 5 ruling was not the final judgment.

“We hope that justice will deservedly prevail and nobody will get harmed,” the prime minister said, while, however, criticizing the opposition, particularly the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP), for their statements belittling the court’s will.

“The most important prosecutor and the most important judge is the nation,” Erdoğan also said.