Turkey Arrests Ex-Military Chief

Former Turkish chief of staff Ilker Basbug has been arrested for "attempting to destabilize" Turkey's Islamist-leaning government.

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Gabe Kahn.,

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Turkey’s former military chief was arrested Friday for allegedly "attempting to destabilize" Turkey’s Islamic-rooted government via the Internet, Ankara's state-run Andolu Agency reported.

An arrest warrant was issued against Gen. Ilker Basbug on Friday pending trial. Basbug is the most senior officer to be jailed in a series of investigations into alleged plots to bring down Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s government.

The arrest came hours after Basbug was deposed by prosecutors in a case in which the military is alleged to have funded anti-government websites aimed at discrediting public officials in 2009.

Basbug has denied all of the allegations against him and called the Erdogan government's probe a "farsical tragicomedy" aimed at misdirecting public interest.

“It is very sad, and hard to understand,” he said during a 12-hour interrogation, NTV said. “If authorities have failed to discover any of this misconduct that I am claimed to have committed in active duty, then all is incomprehensible.”

Basbug's arrest is viewed by Turkey-experts as the latest battle in a power-struggle between Erdogan's Islamic-leaning Justice and Development party and Ankara's traditionally secular establishment.

Turkey's military has long been a bastion of secular power in the country and is known to regard itself as the defenders of Ankara's secular constitution.

The suspects, including dozens of senior generals and admirals, say they acted as part of a chain of command. Basbug led the military at the time. He retired in August 2010.

No convictions have been obtained in the case thus far.

Human rights observers have expressed growing concern as critics of the probe have been systemically arrested in what has been described as "a bid to intimidate opponents and silence critics."

The detainees include 97 journalists, publishers and other members of the media who have expressed dissenting views.