ANKARA, Turkey (AP) — A former Turkish military chief accused of leading an Internet campaign as part of an alleged conspiracy to topple the Islamic-rooted government rejected the allegations on Tuesday as “a comedy of incompetence.”On the second day of his trial in Istanbul, İlker Başbuğ said the charges brought against him were an attempts to discredit the armed forces and declared he would not defend himself or answer questions in court, the state-run news agency reported.
Basbug, who was arrested in January, is the most senior military officer to be prosecuted in a series of anti-terror probes that began in 2008 and that have netted hundreds of suspects, many of them retired and active-duty military officers.
The government has defended the probes, which have stripped the military of its former political clout, as steps toward enhancing democracy, but suspicions of score-settling, long imprisonments without verdicts and other lapses have tainted the legal process.
Basbug faces life in prison on charges of attempting to overthrow the government. The charges stem from allegations that the military funded dozens of websites aimed at discrediting Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s government in 2009 as part of alleged efforts to topple his administration. Basbug, who retired in August 2010, led the military at the time.
Some suspects already charged in the case, including senior generals and admirals, have proclaimed their innocence and said they acted in a chain of command.
Basbug asked to be tried at Turkey’s Supreme Court, where senior government officials accused of wrongdoing, are prosecuted.
“I have never acted against the law in my life,” the state-run Anadolu Agency quoted Basbug as telling the court. “My loyalty to democracy is obvious.”
“Despite all this, they are now accusing the commander of one of the world’s strongest armies of attempting to stage a coup through the Internet and speeches,” he said.
“To try to accuse someone with such an indictment is nothing but a comedy of incompetence,” he added.
Anadolu said spectators and fellow defendants applauded his statements.
The alleged conspiracy involving Basbug was first reported by a Turkish newspaper in 2009, which printed a photocopy of an alleged plan to damage the reputation of the government by portraying it as corrupt.
Investigations into the reported conspiracy were inconclusive because the original document, allegedly signed by a navy colonel, could not be found. The probe was revived last year after an unidentified military officer allegedly sent the original document to Istanbul’s chief prosecutor.
The military says 58 serving generals or admirals are in jail. Last year, the nation’s top four military commanders, including the chief of staff who succeeded Basbug, resigned in protest against the arrests and prosecutions of military officers.
The United States has urged Turkey to handle any prosecution of Basbug or other military officials transparently and responsibly.
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