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Turkey's ex-army chief on trial for coup plot

Ilker Basbug is among 29 accused of being part of shadowy group plotting to overthrow governmentIlker Basbug, Turkey's former army chief, has gone on trial on charges of leading a terrorist group accused of plotting to overthrow the government of Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the prime minister.

Basbug raised a clenched fist and waved to supporters as the trial opened at the Silivri high security prison complex in Istanbul on Monday.

Basbug, chief of staff from 2008 to 2010, is accused of being a leader of a shadowy network dubbed "Ergenekon", behind a string of alleged plots against the Erdogan government.

His lawyer, however, said at the weekend, the case targeted not only Basbug but also "the Turkish armed forces and even, in political terms, the state".

Turks split

The trial encroaches on sensitive territory in a country that saw three coups in the second half of the 20th centrury.

The military has viewed Erdogan, a man with roots in political Islam, and his AK Party with deep suspicion since it was first elected in 2002.

Since then the AKP has built up a huge majority in parliament, reformed the judiciary and used its authority, bolstered by economic success, to strip the military of the power it has enjoyed to make or break governments.

Dressed in a dark suit and tie, Basbug was the first of 29 defendants to confirm his identity to the bench of three judges on Monday. His answers to judges were to the point.

He waved to several co-defendants who called out to their former chief, and raised a clenched fist as a sign of solidarity with one old colleague also on trial.

The case against him features websites allegedly set up by the military to spread "black propaganda" against the government until 2008.

Basbug is the most senior officer among hundreds of secularists facing conspiracy and terrorism charges.


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