More released in Turkish coup plot trial
Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan - REUTERS/Sergei Karpukhin

ISTANBUL: A Turkish court on Monday released scores of defendants convicted last year over an alleged coup plot, media reported.

The ruling came after former army chief Ilker Basbug — sentenced to life in jail in connection with the so-called “Ergenekon” conspiracy — was released from prison on Friday.

The constitutional court had ruled earlier that Basbug’s legal rights were violated, saying that a lower court failed to publish its detailed verdict on the case and send it to the appeals court.

That ruling paved the way for 19 more defendants to be released, including prominent journalist Tuncay Ozkan, as well as retired army officers after a local court ruled in favor of a complaint they filed, the private NTV channel reported.

The court did however impose a travel ban on some of the released defendants, who were all given long jail terms last year over an alleged 2003 plot to overthrow the government.

Ozkan, who was accused of leading a terrorist organization, was sentenced to life in prison with 15 others.

“We are here to put an end to a period marked by grudge and tyranny,” said Ozkan following his release from the high-security Silivri prison near Istanbul, where he had been held since 2008.

The backdrop to the releases is a power struggle between Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan and a former ally turned arch-rival, US-based cleric Fethullah Gulen.

Erdogan’s Islamic-leaning government once teamed up with Gulenists to tame Turkey’s military, which has staged three coups since 1960 and long saw itself as the guardian of the secular state.

The erstwhile allies fell out and Erdogan now accuses Gulen and his network of trying to undermine his government by instigating a huge corruption investigation late last year.

The prime minister, fighting for political survival with local polls due this month and a presidential vote in August, has recently sought to mend fences with the army.

In a gesture toward the army, parliament in February abolished the specially-appointed courts that convicted dozens of army officers, paving the way for retrials.

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