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Turkish high court supports former general's appeal for release

Turkey's Constitutional Court [official website, in Turkish] on Thursday ruled in favor of retired general Ilker Basbug's [personal website, in Turkish; JURIST news archive] appeal against his sentence for life imprisonment. The ruling may allow for his release [Reuters report] by the lower court and set a precedent for more than 200 others currently imprisoned for allegedly playing roles in the Ergenekon conspiracy against Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan [official website, in Turkish]. The Constitutional Court asserted that the lower court's failure to publish its detailed verdict violated a constitutional clause regarding personal freedom. The court decided to send a request to the lower court to address the issue of the former general's release. Basbug has been held in prison near Istanbul for 26 months.

Basbug's has sparked protests and polarized the country between those who see it as an opportunity to unravel a network of ultra-nationalists and those who believe it is a government attempt to silence the party's opponents and impose Islamic principles [JURIST report]. In August a Turkish court convicted [JURIST report] the country's former military chief of plotting to overthrow the government and sentenced him to life in prison. Earlier that month police blocked hundreds of demonstrators from reaching the courthouse in Silivri, 25 miles west of Istanbul, in a show of solidarity with the defendants. Other high-profile defendants in the case include Mustafa Balbay [JURIST report], the Ankara representative of the Cumhuriyet [media website, in Turkish] newspaper, and Mehmet Haberal, a surgeon and founder of a university in Ankara. Both faced life prison terms, but received sentences of 34 years and 12 years, respectively.

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