A court on Monday sentenced a former chief of general staff to life without parole and handed down harsh sentences to nearly 300 defendants, including many former military force commanders accused of plotting to topple the government.
The court sentenced former military chief Gen. İlker Başbuğ, journalist Tuncay Özkan, retired Col. Dursun Çiçek, lawyer Kemal Kerinçsiz, Workers' Party (İP) leader Doğu Perinçek, retired Col. Fuat Selvi, Hasan Ataman Yıldırım, retired generals Hurşit Tolon, Nusret Taşdeler, Hasan Iğsız and Şener Eruygur to aggravated life imprisonment. Retired Brig. Gen. Veli Küçük, Capt. Muzaffer Tekin and Council of State shooter Alparslan Arslan got consecutive life sentences in the trial.
The court acquitted a total of 21 of the 275 defendants. The trial had been ongoing since 2008, after the discovery of a weapons arsenal in an İstanbul district. The court separated the cases of two suspects at large, former Justice and Development Party (AK Party) deputy Turan Çömez and former İstanbul Mayor Bedrettin Dalan.
Force commanders were given lengthy or life sentences on charges of attempting to overthrow the government, but there were also civilians, such as journalists Tuncay Özkan and Mustafa Balbay, who were given lengthy prison terms. Özkan was given 22 years and six months in jail while Balbay, who is also a Republican People's Party (CHP) deputy, was given 34 years and eight months. Sixteen of those convicted were released on the grounds that they have served their sentences already considering the time they spent under arrest during the course of the trial.
Another deputy, CHP Zonguldak deputy Mehmet Haberal was given 12 and a half years on coup-attempt-related charges but was released. Ankara Chamber of Commerce (ATO) President Sinan Aygün, was sentenced to 13 years and six months. Journalist Yalçın Küçük, who was accused of being one of the chief members in the administration of the organization, was given 22 years and six months. Doğu Perinçek, head of the Workers' Party (İP), was given life without parole.
Another key defendant, Veli Küçük, was given two consecutive life sentences. Küçük is a retired general and is believed to be the founder of the illegal intelligence unit JİTEM.
Former legal counsel of the General Staff, retired Gen. Hıfzı Çubuklu was sentenced to nine years in prison. Well-known mafia leader Sedat Peker was sentenced to 10 years in prison for his involvement in Ergenekon. Lt. Gen. İsmail Hakkı Pekin was given a seven-year-and-six-months imprisonment. Former Police Chief Adil Serdar Saçan got 14 years and six months. Ferda Paksüt got two years and six months. The court sentenced Vice Adm. Mehmet Otuzbiroğlu to 20 years and six months in prison.
Osman Yıldırım, who was among the suspects of the 2007 Council of State attack, got eight years and nine months. Retired Col. Arif Doğan, who also admitted to his role in establishing JİTEM -- a clandestine and illicit unit within the gendarmerie -- was given 47 years. Ali Yasak, a well-known gangster linked to the figures in the Susurluk incident, got six years and three months.
Some of the other sentences announced on Monday were as follows, although over what charges the sentences were given was not immediately available for each individual. Mafia boss Semih Tufan Gülaltay was given 12 years; İP Secretary-General Ferit İlsever 15 years; writer Ergun Poyraz 29 years and nine months; former Higher Education Board (YÖK) President Kemal Gürüz got 13 years and 11 months; İP leader Doğu Perinçek 117 years; İP press secretary Hikmet Çiçek 21 years and nine months; retired Maj. Fikret Emek 41 years and four months; retired Lt. Col. Mustafa Dönmez 49 years and two months; Bedirhan Şinal, a suspect of a hand grenade attack on the Cumhuriyet daily office, was sentenced to 18 years and eight months in prison; Emcet Olcayto, a lawyer for the Workers' Party, was given 13 years and two months; retired NCO Oktay Yıldırım got 33 years and 10 months and former National Security Council (MGK) Secretary-General Tuncer Kılınç was sentenced to 13 years.
Tight security in Silivri
Security forces set up barricades around the courthouse in the Silivri jail complex, west of İstanbul, to tighten security after the defendants' supporters vowed to hold a demonstration against the five-year trial that has exposed deep divisions in Turkish society.
Prosecutors say an alleged network of secular arch-nationalists, codenamed Ergenekon, pursued extra-judicial killings and bombings in order to trigger a military coup, an example of the anti-democratic forces that Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan says his Islamist-rooted AK Party has fought to stamp out.
Critics, including the main opposition party, have said the charges are trumped up, aimed at stifling opposition and taming the secularist establishment that has long dominated Turkey. It says the judiciary has been subject to political influence in hearing the case.
Ahead of the verdict, state authorities banned protests at the court, and police on Saturday raided the offices of a secularist association, political party and television channel, detaining 20 people for calling for demonstrations.
Police sealed off the main road to the courthouse with fencing topped with razor wire and concrete blocks and around 100 people chanted anti-government slogans.
"The day will come when the AKP will pay the price," some chanted on the approach road to Silivri, where hundreds of riot police were on duty, backed by water cannon vehicles.
The threat of a coup is not far-fetched: The secularist military staged three coups in Turkey between 1960 and 1980 and pushed the first Islamist-led government out of office in 1997.
But Prime Minister Erdoğan has gradually chipped away at the army's influence since his AK Party first came to power in 2002, including in the courts with the Ergenekon case and the separate "Sledgehammer" plot.
Last September, the court in Silivri sentenced more than 300 military officers to jail on charges of plotting to overthrow Erdoğan a decade ago in “Sledgehammer.”
The government's control over NATO's second largest army was clearly illustrated on Saturday when Ankara appointed new military commanders in an overhaul of its top ranks, forcing the retirement of a senior general regarded as a government critic.
Here is a list of the sentences handed down to some of the key defendants:
- Former military chief Gen. İlker Başbuğ: Aggravated life imprisonment
- Journalist Tuncay Özkan: Aggravated life imprisonment
- Retired Col. Dursun Çiçek: Aggravated life imprisonment
- Lawyer Kemal Kerinçsiz: Aggravated life imprisonment
- Workers' Party (İP) leader Doğu Perinçek: Aggravated life imprisonment
- Retired Col. Fuat Selvi: Aggravated life imprisonment
- Hasan Ataman Yıldırım: Aggravated life imprisonment
- Retired Gen. Hurşit Tolon: Aggravated life imprisonment
- Retired Gen. Nusret Taşdeler: Aggravated life imprisonment
- Retired Gen. Hasan Iğsız: Aggravated life imprisonment
- Retired Gen. Şener Eruygur: Aggravated life imprisonment
- Republican People's Party (CHP) deputy Mustafa Balbay: 34 years, 8 months
- Republican People's Party (CHP) deputy Mehmet Haberal: 12 years, 6 months
- Republican People's Party (CHP) deputy Sinan Aygün: 13 years, 6 months
Retired Brig. Gen. Veli Küçük: Life imprisonment
- Capt. Muzaffer Tekin: Life imprisonment
- Alparslan Arslan (who killed a member of the Council of State): Life imprisonment
- Retired Rear Adm. Alaaddin Sevim: 10 years
- Former Chairman of General Staff Intelligence Office, retired Lt. Gen. İsmailHakkı Pekin: 7.5 years
- Gangster Ali Yasak: 6 years 3 months
- Retired Vice Adm. Mehmet Otuzbiroğlu: 20 years, 6 months
- Former legal counsel of the General Staff, retired Brig. Gen. Hıfzı Çubuklu: 9 years 6 months
- Mafia boss Semih Tufan Gülaltay: 12 years
- Retired Col. Arif Doğan: 47 years 3 months
- Workers' Party (İP) leader Doğu Perinçek: Life imprisonment
- Academic Mehmet Perinçek: 6 years
- Associate Professor Ümit Sayın: 4 years
- Former Higher Education Board (YÖK) President Kemal Gürüz: 13 years 11 months
- Gang leader Sedat Peker: 10 years
- Former rector of Ondokuz Mayıs University: Ferit Bernay: 10 years
- Former rector of Uludağ University, Professor Mustafa Abbas Yurtkuran: 10 years
- Former Police Chief Adil Serdar Saçan: 14 years
- Workers' Party Deputy Secretary-General Ferit İlsever: 15 years
- Suspect of the 2006 Council of State attack, Osman Yıldırım: 8 years, 9 months
- Journalist and former scholar Erol Manisalı: 9 years
- Journalist Adnan Bulut: 6 years, 3 months
- Bedirhan Şinal, suspected of attacking the Cumhuriyet daily building: 18 years, 8 months
- Workers' Party Deputy Chairman Turhan Özlü: 9 years
- Journalist Güler Kömürcü: 7 years, 6 months
- Writer Bekir Öztürk: 12 years
- Writer Ergün Poyraz: 29 years, 4 months
- Lawyer representing the Workers' Party Emcet Olcayto: 13 years, 2 months
- Retired Maj. Fikret Emek: 41 years, 4 months
- Former Mayor Gürbüz Çapan: 1 year, 3 months
- Workers' Party administrator Hikmet Çiçek: 21 years, 9 months
- Workers' Party administrator Hayrettin Ertekin: 12 years
- Former chairman of the Idealist Hearths (Nationalist Movement Party [MHP] youth branches) Levent Temiz: 10 years
- Worker's Party administrator Adnan Akfırat: 19 years
- Lt. Mehmet Ali Çelebi: 16 years, 6 months
- Retired Sgt. Mehmet Demirtaş (owner of a house in Ümraniye where grenades were found): 22 years
- Journalist Deniz Yıldırım: 16 years, 10 months
- Retired Capt. Mehmet Zekeriya Öztürk: 19 years, 6 months
- Retired Maj. Gen. Erdal Şenel: 7 years, 6 months
- Wife of Constitutional Court member Osman Paksüt, Ferda Paksüt: 2 two years, 6 months