Former chief of staff sentenced to life as Turkey’s Ergenekon coup plot case closes

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 An Istanbul court handed down severe punishments to those convicted in the Ergenekon trial, including a life sentence given to former Chief of General Staff Gen. İlker Başbuğ as Turkey’s historic legal battle ended Aug. 5.

The verdict trial, which decided the fate of 275 suspects at the end of the five-year process, resulted in hundreds of years of imprisonment in total and several aggravated life sentences handed to a series of the country’s high-ranking army members, journalists and academics.

The Aug. 5 verdict trial marked the end of the Ergenekon coup case, which has gripped the nation since a manhunt was launched following the discovery 27 hand grenades in an Istanbul house.

Suspects faced a series of charges from a combined mass of different cases, but with the overall focus around their implication in the Ergenekon network, which was ultimately acknowledged by the court as a terrorist organization that attempted to overthrow the government.

In total, 21 of the 275 suspects were acquitted and 17 were arrested at the verdict trial, as the cases regarding three suspects who died during the course of the trials were dismissed.

A prominent suspect in the case, Republican People’s Party (CHP) deputy Mehmet Haberal, who was first sentenced to 12 years and six months in prison, was subsequently for time served during the trial. Another CHP deputy, Mustafa Balbay, was sentenced to 34 years and eight months in prison.

Başbuğ was accompanied by several retired generals and high-ranking army members in his life sentence, including retired Gen. Hurşit Tolon, Gen. Şener Eruygur and Gen. Nusret Taşdeler, who were also sentenced to life in prison.

Retired Gen. Veli Küçük received a double aggravated life sentence, as well as an additional 99 years and one month in prison for a variety of charges. The court sentenced former Cmdr. Hasan Iğsız to life in prison as well. Retired Col. Fuat Selvi also received a life sentence.

Journalist Tuncay Özkan also received one of the court’s harshest punishments, as he was sentenced to an aggravated life sentence, as well as an extra 16 years and two months.

Retired Col. Arif Doğan was sentenced to 47 years as a result of the hearings. Both Küçük and Doğan were accused of founding and leading a terrorist organization and trying to overthrow the government. Retired Gen. Levent Ersöz was sentenced to 22 years and six months, as retired Col. Hasan Atilla was handed down a sentence for 29 years and three months.

Former North Sea Field Cmdr. Mehmet Otuzbiroğlu was sentenced to 20 years and six months, but was ultimately released for time served with sentence reductions.

Retired Gen. İsmail Hakkı Pekin was sentenced to seven years, and journalist Adnan Bulut was sentenced to six years. Adnan Türkkan and Alaaddin Sevim were sentenced to 10 years, according to the verdict.

The court sentenced Lt. Col. Mustafa Dönmez to 49 years in prison. Dönmez had previously made the news when authorities refused to permit him to travel by sea for his son’s funeral, fearing he could make an escape.

Party leaders, journalists

Workers’ Party (İP) leader Doğu Perinçek received an aggravated life sentence and an additional 30 years in prison. The court sentenced former head of the Higher Education Board of Turkey (YÖK) Kemal Gürüz to 13 years and 11 months, historian Mehmet Perinçek – the son of Doğu Perinçek – to six years and alleged mob leader Sedat Peker was given a 10-year sentence.

İP executives Hayrettin Ertekin and Hikmet Çiçek were sentenced to 16 and 21 years respectively. The party’s lawyer Emcet Olcaytu received 13 years and two months. CHP deputy and former Ankara Chamber of Commerce chairman Sinan Aygün was handed 13 years and six months in prison.

Writer Yalçın Küçük was also sentenced to 22 years and six months in prison. Former rectors Ferit Bernay and Mustafa Abbas were each sentenced to 10 years in prison.

Journalist Erol Manisalı was sentenced to nine years. Author Ergün Poyraz was handed down a sentence for 29 years and four months while journalist Güler Kömürcü was sentenced to seven years and six months.

Bedirhan Şinal, a suspect in the attack on daily Cumhuriyet, was sentenced to 18 years and eight months in prison while the court handed down a double aggravated life sentence to Turkish Council of State attacker Alparslan Arslan.

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