On Thursday evening (5 January), the Istanbul 12th High Criminal Court on Duty decided to arrest İlker Başbuğ, former Chief of General Staff.
The arrest came pursuant to Başbuğ's statement given as a suspect in the scope of the so-called "Internet Memorandum" trial. The case is related to a number of internet sites allegedly established within the military to spread anti-government propaganda. Başbuğ was taken to court with the demand to arrest him on charges of the "attempt to overthrow the government" and "managing an illegal organization".
The former Chief of General Staff was interrogated at the Istanbul Courthouse in Beşiktaş by Istanbul Public Chief Prosecutor Cihan Kansız. The interrogation started at 1.30 pm and lasted till about 8.00 pm.
Thereupon, Başbuğ was taken to the 12th High Criminal Court on Duty with the request to arrest him under allegations of "forming and commanding organized criminal groups" according to Article 314/1 of the Turkish Criminal Law (TCK) and the "attempt to eliminate the government by using force and violence" (TCK 312/1). Başbuğ was arrested at around 0.30 am on Friday morning (6 January).
Retired General Başbuğ said at court:
"I reject these charges. The person who is being accused is the 26th Chief of General Staff of the Republic of Turkey.
This date should be noted down in history...
As the Chief of General Staff I was the commander of the Turkish Armed Forces (TSK) and the TSK is one of the most powerful armies of the world. We can really call it tragicomic to accuse a person commanding such an army of forming and commanding a terrorist organization.
I was promoted to the rank of a General on 30 August 2002 and was appointed to Second Chief of General Staff in August 2003. While I was fulfilling this duty between 2003 and 2005, we worked together with our esteemed president and also with the prime minister on several occasions. I was again appointed by this political power to the Commander of the Land Forces in 2006. Again by the current government I was appointed Chief of General Staff between 2008 and 2010.
We worked together with the esteemed president and prime minister and as member of the National Security Council (MGK) also together with the government ministers. Now, our government has intelligence opportunities and possibilities of course. For so many years I worked together with the biggest offices of the political authority. It should be emphasized that during all that time it was not determined that I had formed and commanded an armed terrorist organization.(...)
As a result, hearing such an allegation affects my honour as a general who honourably served his duty in this country and state. It is the biggest punishment given to me to accuse a Chief of General Staff of having established an armed terrorist organization. (...)"
The process that lead to Başbuğ's arrest
The investigation was initiated in 2009 upon the second informant letter of an unidentified officer that included the original of the "Action Plan against Reactionary Forces" allegedly signed in person by Colonel Dursun Çiçek.
At those times, Başbuğ's name was part of the agenda. The investigation was launched by Ergenekon Prosecutor Zekeriya Öz. His place was taken by Special Authority Public Prosecutor Cihan Kansız after Öz had been appointed to Istanbul Public Deputy Chief Prosecutor.
Kansız completed the investigation and the indictment was prepared. 22 people, including Major General Hıfzı Çubuklu and ret. General Hasan Iğsız, were accused of membership or command of the clandestine Ergenekon organization that is charged with the attempt to topple the government. No action was being taken against Başbuğ in the course of the investigation.
After the beginning of the trial, defendants stated that the Internet Memorandum was also approved by ret. General Başbuğ, Chief of General Staff at the time. Attention was frequently drawn on sentences in the documents that included Başbuğ's name.
The internet memorandum trial was then merged with the trial related to the "Action Plan against Reactionary Forces". As included in the internet memorandum indictment, defendant Colonel Çiçek stated that he got the approval for the memorandum of ret. General Iğsız but that he did had not been submitted it to ret. General Başbuğ.
Captain Murat Uslukılıç, one of the defendants, stated at the prosecutor's office that the memorandum was submitted to Igsız, then Second Chief of General Staff and that Igsız wrote a note reading 'to the attention of the commander'.
Defendant Major General Hıfzı Çubuklu conceded at the prosecution that the memorandum was correct and that the initials belonged to him. The date written next to the initials was 16 February 2009. Çubuklu stated that the document was presented to the Chief of General Staff with the initials of the Second Chief on 1 April 2009.
The Istanbul 13th High Criminal Court as the court handling the case filed a criminal complaint with the prosecutor's office on 30 December 2011 in order to investigate the allegations put up against Başbuğ. (YY/VK)
Sources: Radikal, Hürriyet and Sabah newspapers.