Turkey’s former military chief was among several people who were handed life sentences on Monday after being found guilty of plotting to overthrow the government of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
A Turkish court near Istanbul sentenced former armed forces commander Ilker Basbug and retired General Veli Küçük, both key suspects in the trial, to life in prison, reported euronews. Prominent journalist Tuncay Özkan was sentenced to life as well. Twenty one others have been acquitted.
Almost 300 people were accused of being involved in the plot to overthrow the government as part of an anti-government secularist ring, according to euronews.
The defendants include a number of top ex-military personnel, journalists, businessmen and academics.
The judges also sentenced three serving parliamentarians from the opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) to between 12 and 35 years in prison.
Prosecutors maintain the network – code-named Ergenekon – kept up a campaign of killings and bombings to trigger a military coup against Erdogan. They have called for life sentences for 64 of the defendants.
“We are Mustafa Kemal’s soldiers,” the defendants and defense lawyers chanted in reference to Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, founder of the modern secular republic.
“Damn the AKP,” they chanted of Erdogan’s ruling Islamist-rooted party, according to euronews.
Basbug was arrested in 2012, the most senior officer to be jailed in a series of investigations into alleged plots to bring down Erdogan’s government.
Basbug has denied all of the allegations against him and called the Erdogan government's probe a "farcical tragicomedy" aimed at misdirecting public interest. Erdogan has denied interfering in the legal process, stressing the judiciary’s independence.