Turkey’s ruling party to file criminal complaint against ex-military chief

Members of Turkey’s Ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) will lodge a joint criminal complaint on Friday against former Chief of General Staff İlker Başbuğ for insulting parliament, the party’s spokesman Ömer Çelik said.

“Our friends will file a legal complaint tomorrow. We do not see this issue as an ordinary one,” Sabah daily quoted Çelik as saying in relation to Başbuğ’s comments on 2009 legal changes during a television interview on Haber Global on Jan. 28.

The ex-military chief said that legislation in 2009 that allowed civilian courts to try military personnel in peacetime could have been pushed by Gülen movement, a religious group the Turkish government accuses of orchestrating a coup attempt in 2016 and calls the Fethullahist Terror Organisation (FETÖ).

“I believe this motion was prepared upon FETÖ’s instructions, directives,” Başbuğ said. 

The AKP and the Gülen movement were allies in 2009 when parliament approved the legal amendment that was seen at the time an important step to bring an end the military tutelage over civilian governments. The secretive Islamist movement encouraged its many thousands of acolytes to take up influential jobs in the civil service, army, police, judiciary and media.

President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan this week instructed party members to lodge a criminal complaint against Başbuğ, BBC Turkish said.

Erdoğan said on Wednesday that the 2009 motion was a correction of a practice that established a basis for coups, prevented the justice system functioning and allowed Turkey to be criticised in international platforms.

Başbuğ issued a statement on his blog on Thursday saying that the legal amendment was introduced abruptly one night and opened way for the detention of retired Colonel Dursun Çiçek in relation to Ergenekon investigations. The Ergenekon trials targeted high-ranking military personnel, politicians, journalists and civil society figures who were accused of forming an armed organised criminal empire and using their influence to attempt to overthrow the AKP government. 

Başbuğ himself was arrested in 2012 for his role in Ergenekon and was later sentenced to life in prison.

By the time the Ergenekon suspects were convicted in 2013, many to life sentences, the alliance between the AKP and the Gülen movement was on the verge of collapse. The next year, after a corruption probe thought to have been launched by Gülenist prosecutors against government ministers brought the Gülen-AKP conflict into the open, many of the Ergenekon convicts were released. The verdicts in the trial were annulled for a re-trial in 2016. All 235 suspects in the high-profile trial were acquitted last year.