Turkish generals angered by Kurd militant testimony

Thu Nov 8, 2012 11:31am EST
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By Daren Butler

ISTANBUL (Reuters) - Retired Turkish military commanders have expressed fury that a former top Kurdish rebel has been allowed to testify against them in a coup trial, citing it as proof the proceedings were meant only to intimidate and undermine the armed forces.

Semdin Sakik, known as "Fingerless Zeki" when number two in the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), this week waived his anonymity at the 'Ergenekon' conspiracy trial at which hundreds, including military men, academics, businessmen and journalists, are accused of plotting to oust the Islamist-rooted government.

Opponents of Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan say the trial of the alleged nationalist Ergenekon network and another plot for which hundreds of army officers were convicted in September is designed to silence the secularist opposition.

The appearance of Sakik, known as "Fingerless Zeki" since losing a thumb while firing a rocket, was a disturbing revelation for military leaders, who have fought for 28 years against the PKK - designated a terrorist group by Turkey, the United States and European Union.

The conflict has killed more than 40,000 people.

A joint statement released late on Wednesday by General Ilker Basbug, the former armed forces chief, and three other commanders - who like him are defendants in the Ergenekon trial - said the use of Sakik as a witness was part of a campaign to undermine NATO's second biggest army (the TSK).

"Leaving honored members of the TSK face-to-face with the disgusting slander of terrorists who are clearly enemies, once again shows that one of the fundamental aims of this trial is to intimidate, weaken and undermine the Turkish army," they said.

Sakik, who testified to the court on Nov 6-7, was an "enemy of the Turkish armed forces, which had suffered thousands of martyrs and tens of thousands of war wounded since 1984."   Continued...