Retired Gen. Ergin Saygun, who was convicted and sentenced to 18 years in prison as part of the trial into the Sledgehammer coup probe last year, was granted a release on Thursday for health reasons.
The İstanbul 10th High Criminal Court decided to release Saygun as a stay in prison could pose a danger to his life. The court said in its decision that the suspect is in need of urgent medical care, citing a report by the Council of Forensic Medicine (ATK). The reports also said Saygun cannot be treated without access to family members, which his arrest had prevented.
While the decision was delivered by the court, Saygun was undergoing heart surgery in Mehmet Akif Ersoy Cardiovascular Diseases Hospital. Later, Ece Saygun, the retired general's daughter, confirmed that her father would not be imprisoned or under arrest during the trial.
Ece Saygun told reporters that she only wants to see her father open his eyes and see that he is free.
Saygun's son, Tolga, said he was pleased about the court decision concerning his father but that he wished this decision had been made at a time when such health problems would not appear. He said his father's life is still at risk after the surgery.
Saygun's lawyer, Sedat Küçükyılmaz, said, “This was a decision which should have been made on Dec. 25,” in reference to the court's decision for Saygun's release.
The court ruled that Saygun will need to get another medical report that shows whether he is fit to stay in prison following the end of his treatment. A travel ban was also imposed on the retired general.
Saygun was first hospitalized on Feb. 11, 2011, immediately after an İstanbul court decided to arrest him for his involvement in the controversial Sledgehammer case. Sledgehammer is a subversive plot allegedly prepared by a clique inside the military that included plans to crash jets and bomb prominent mosques during busy prayer hours to undermine the ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Party) with the aim of eventually overthrowing it. Sledgehammer suspects stood accused of a failed attempt to destroy Parliament and overthrow the government. The trial concluded in September.
In the meantime, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan on Thursday called Saygun's daughter, Ece, to offer his get-well wishes to Saygun. Erdoğan received information about Saygun's medical condition from his doctors through his advisers.