Clashes erupt after Turkey trial verdicts

Police disperse protesters gathered around courthouse as ex-army chief and many others sentenced in conspiracy trial.

    Protesters have clashed with police forces as a Turkish court handed down judgements in a conspiracy case that has exposed deep divisions in the country.

    After the verdicts were announced on Monday, fierce clashes erupted between police and about 10,000 protesters near the courthouse in Silivri, a town in the outskirts of Istanbul

    Demonstrators threw stones at riot police who responded with water cannon, tear gas and rubber bullets to break up the protest that was blocking traffic.

    Hundreds of people also took to streets in the capital, Ankara, to protest against the court ruling, chanting: "We are soldiers of Mustafa Kemal Ataturk," a reference to the founder of modern Turkey.

    We are not becoming happy or clapping as anyone is being arrested but there is verdict and we must respect it.

    Bulent Arinc, Turkish government spokesperson

    Former armed forces chief Ilker Basbug was sentenced to life imprisonment by the court in the case involving allegations of conspiracy to overthrow the government.

    Judges also sentenced three serving parliamentarians from the opposition Republican People's Party (CHP) to between 12 and 35 years in prison.

    The court acquitted 21 defendants in the controversial case. All have been accused of being members of a little known underground group called Ergenekon.

    Call for respect

    Turkish government spokesperson Bulent Arinc said that everyone should respect the verdict of the court in the Ergenekon trial.

    "Amongst them, there are names who are really well known by the public, there are some people served as chief of staff in army, some rectors, and even some high level bureaucrats. But this is a fact of the judiciary system that no one has any privilege to commit a crime" Arinc told reporters after a cabinet meeting on Monday.

    "We are not becoming happy or clapping as anyone is being arrested but there is verdict and we must respect it".

    Turkey's EU minister Egemen Bagis said on Monday that Ergenekon was approved officially a terrorist organization.

    Kemal Kilicdaroglu, leader of main opposition party CHP, said in a statement that "court decision is illegitimate in terms of law, politics and morality".

    "US following the media reports of the Ergenekon verdict", State Department Deputy Spokeswoman Marie Harf told to the reporters referring to the court decision. She also said that many Turkish citizens expressed serious concerns regarding the length and lack of transparency of the trial process.

    Critics, including the main opposition party, have said the charges are trumped up, aimed at stifling opposition and taming the secularist establishment which has long dominated Turkey.

    They say the judiciary has been subject to political influence in hearing the case.

    The Ergenekon investigation started in June 2007 after an anonymous tip led police to find explosives in a shanty house belonging to a retired officer.

    Critics claim the investigation has only focused on the opponents of the AKP government.

    The government denies any such motives, and insists that it aims at the elimination of a so-called "deep-state", a force alleged to be operating within the state.

    In September 2012, the court in Silivri sentenced more than 300 military officers to jail on charges of plotting to overthrow Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan in 2003.

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera and agencies


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