Turkey’s Silivri courthouse is where the country’s biggest trial in many years was held, with all the verdicts handed out on Monday, including 17 life sentences.
Former army chief Ilker Basbug was among them. He denies the allegations of plotting to overthrow the government and is expected to appeal. In all, 275 defendants were sentenced, bringing to an end the five-year ‘Ergenekon’ trial.
Akif Hamzacebi, a member of Turkey’s Republican People’s Party vehemently criticised the decision: “This is a menace to the army of the Republic of Turkey. It’s not acceptable. If you are trying someone who has been the commander of the Turkish armed forces for being a member of a terrorist organisation, that means you are targeting and putting the army of the Republic of Turkey on trial.”
The decision has revealed the ugly side of Turkish politics. Many critics, including the main opposition party claim that prime minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s Islamist-based government is trying to squeeze out the secularist establishment, which has long dominated Turkey.
But Erdogan denies holding any undue influence over the judiciary.
Basbug was joined by other military personnel in receiving life. It’s also the first time the court acknowledged the secularist network as a terrorist organisation.
One local man in Istanbul told euronews:“Whoever deserves a punishment should face it. Whether he is a general or an ordinary man.”
“If some people tried to remove a government with military force and there is proof, then there must be a punishment,” another local resident told us. “But I am against putting people in prison before evidence of their crimes is shown.”
In the aftermath of the court verdicts, which has resulted in hundreds of years of imprisonment for many of the country’s top army members, journalists and academics, nobody quite knows what might happen next.