6 Aug 2013

Ex-army chief sentenced to life in prison in Turkey

9:41 am on 6 August 2013

The former head of the Turkish military, General Ilker Basbug, was sentenced on Monday to life in prison for plotting to overthrow the government.

He is the most prominent figure among 275 former generals, journalists and academics who were put on trial over the past five years.

Since Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan came to power in 2002, hundreds of military officers - serving or retired - have been arrested.

Critics have accused Mr Erdogan of staging show trials to eliminate his enemies. His supporters say the trials have pushed the military out of politics.

The BBC reports Monday's sentencing hearing was the culmination of a number of trials that began in 2008.

As the investigation widened, dozens more suspects were held, and their cases were eventually folded into the main trial. Some of the suspects have been in custody awaiting verdicts for five years.

Turkey's military has long seen itself as the guarantor of the secular constitution. It staged three coups between 1960 - 1980 and has a history of tension with the Justice and Development Party led by Mr Erdogan.

General Basbug led the military between 2008 and 2010.

The judges also sentenced three serving members of parliament from the Republican People's Party to between 12 - 35 years in prison.

However, the BBC reports at least 21 people were acquitted.