Turkey's former army chief storms out of terrorism trial

Tue Mar 27, 2012 11:54am EDT
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By Ece Toksabay

SILIVRI, Turkey (Reuters) - Former armed forces commander Ilker Basbug stormed from an Istanbul courtroom on Tuesday and denounced his trial on coup plot accusations as an assault on the entire military leadership and a "black stain" on the country's history.

General Basbug's outburst on the second day of a terrorism trial was the most dramatic demonstration yet of tensions that have simmered between the armed forces and the prime minister, Tayyip Erdogan, who has reined in their influence since winning power in 2002.

Basbug, who headed the military between 2008-2010, declared the trial a "comedy" and said he did not recognize the judges' authority over him. He demanded referral to the Supreme Court.

The general's patience snapped when the court was played a tapped telephone conversation between two other suspects accused of planning to engineer a coup through bombings and assassinations in what has become known as the "Ergenekon" case.

Basbug switched on his microphone and, to laughter from spectators, many of them supporters, told the judges to stop playing the tapes. They were, he said, irrelevant to the case.

"Your honor, this is a serious court, but it has become tabloidised. This is a black stain in history," Basbug, wearing a dark suit, said to applause from supporters.

The judge threatened to clear spectators from the courtroom.

"Clear it, sir, do clear it," Basbug interjected angrily. "Even playing these tapes here is a shame."   Continued...

Turkish Chief of Staff General Ilker Basbug salutes during the EFES-2010 military exercise in Izmir May 26, 2010. REUTERS/ Osman Orsal