Turkey Gives 19 Life Sentences

    An Ergenekon prisoner being driven in a police armoured vehicle holds a protestor's hand on August 5, 2013, as police and gendarmerie block access to a courthouse in Silivri, near Istanbul, where prosecutors are scheduled to deliver their final arguments in the case against 275 people accused of plotting to overturn the Islamic-leaning government. Among the defendants in the high-profile case -- seen as a key test in Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan's showdown with secularist and military opponents -- are ex-military chief Ilker Basbug and other army officers as well as lawyers, academics and journalists. AFP PHOTO/OZAN KOSE        (Photo credit should read OZAN KOSE/AFP/Getty Images)

    Ozan Kose/AFP/Getty

    A Turkish court on Monday sentenced 19 people, including a former military chief, to life in prison for allegedly plotting to overthrow the government in 2010. Ilker Basburg, the 70-year-old former head of the armed services, was charged with 275 defendants, including 13 other military officers, a soldier, a journalist, a lawyer, a politician, and an ex-publisher with being part of a network called Ergenekon, comprised of secularists, nationalists, and military officials who plotted killings and bombings that would trigger a military coup. The defendants all insisted they were innocent, and 17 were acquitted. The trial has come to be regarded as a symbol of the fight between secularist opposition and the Islamic government of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Meanwhile, security forces fired tear gas into the crowd at the Silivri jail complex, comprised mainly of supporters of the defendants.

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