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Ex-army chief backs the fight against Gulenist terror network

Former military chief Ilker Basbug has expressed his support for Turkish government's war against the Fetullah Terrorist Organization (FETO), which the government blames for being behind the July 15 defeated coup.

Former military chief Ilker Basbug has expressed his support for Turkish government's war against the Fetullah Terrorist Organization (FETO), which the government blames for being behind the July 15 defeated coup.


Speaking to a committee probing the failed coup in Ankara on Thursday, Basbug said Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan had fought decisively against FETO from 2012 until the coup bid.


"I also fought alone in 2008 and 2010 [when he served as military chief]. If everybody had kept in step with Erdogan's struggle [against the group], July 15 would not have happened," he said. He also said that he had always backed the operation to remove FETO from Turkey. "If the coup had succeeded there would not have been any democracy, secular state system or state of law in Turkey," he said.


Basbug was Turkey’s 26th chief of General Staff. He was arrested in 2012 on charges of "establishing and leading a terrorist organization" and "attempting to destroy the Turkish government or attempting to partially or completely prevent its functioning".


In 2013, Basbug was convicted and sentenced to life imprisonment following the Ergenekon coup trial, which was carried out by FETO-linked prosecutors Zekeriya Oz, Mehmet Ali Pekguzel and Nihat Taskin.


The case was filed against 274 people, including military officers, politicians and journalists over an alleged conspiracy to overthrow the ruling Justice and Development (AK) Party government.

However, the Constitutional Court released Basbug in 2014, ruling that his imprisonment had been "a breach of his rights."


After his release, Basbug had said Ergenekon was "artificial," and other army generals convicted in the case were innocent. Likewise, Turkish authorities also said the Sledgehammer (Balyoz) and Ergenekon trials had been based on fabricated evidence.


The convictions have since been quashed and the prosecutions have been blamed on Gulen’s supporters in the criminal justice system who were trying to purge the military of their rival officers to clear the path for promotion of Gulenists.


FETO, led by U.S.-based Fetullah Gulen, is accused of orchestrating Turkey’s July 15 coup plot as well as being behind a long-running campaign to overthrow the state through the infiltration of Turkish institutions, particularly the military, police, and judiciary.


The defeated July 15 coup left 246 people martyred and nearly 2,200 injured.

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