Former Turkish army chief released from prison

Ilker Basbug released after conviction last year for attempting to overthrow government

Ilker Basbug released after conviction last year for attempting to overthrow government

ISTANBUL - Turkey`s former chief of staff Ilker Basbug has been released after the country`s highest legal body ruled his imprisonment was a breach of his rights.

Basbug was convicted in August last year and sentenced to life in prison for attempting to overthrow the government. He had been in prison for 26 months.

Upon his release on Friday, Basbug told reporters his release was "only the beginning" and that he was convinced of the innocence of fellow army members in prison.

Istanbul`s 20th High Criminal Court on Friday unanimously ruled for Basbug`s release on the grounds that all necessary evidence had already been gathered and the imprisonment had served its purpose. The court also banned Basbug from leaving the country.

The decision to release Basbug follows the Constitutional Court`s ruling that his imprisonment was in violation of his rights.

- `Artificial`

On August 5, the same court that ordered his release had sentenced the retired general to life in prison at the end of the six-year Ergenekon case.

The case saw 275 suspects - including retired military commanders, former police chiefs, journalists and businessmen - being accused of plotting to depose the ruling Justice and Development (AK) Party government by paving the way for a military coup.

Basbug said Ergenekon - the name of the organization claimed to have attempted a coup d`etat - was "artificial," and the other convicted army generals were innocent.

"I believe with all my heart that my friends will soon get their freedom. If this doesn`t happen, my freedom would have no meaning at all," he told reporters in Istanbul.

On Thursday, Basbug`s attorney filed a complaint to the Constitutional Court regarding the "trial of Basbug in a local court and his ongoing imprisonment."

The Constitutional Court ruled that Basbug`s imprisonment constitutes a violation of his legal rights.

The Court said Basbug`s case could not be hard to the highest appeal court, as the local court failed to complete the legal procedure.

Basbug was arrested on January 6, 2012 and spent two years and two months in prison.

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