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Turkish court begins announcing Ergenekon verdicts, Basbug gets life in prison

A Turkish court has sentenced ex-General Ilker Basbug to life in prison in the Ergenekon trial. Almost 300 people face verdicts as alleged members of an ultranationalist network that plotted to seize control of Turkey.

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More verdicts awaited in Ergenekon trial

The Silivri court, west of Istanbul, sentenced one of the most prominent suspects, retired military chief of staff General Ilker Basbug, to life in prison for his role in the so-called "Ergenekon" network that allegedly plotted to topple the Turkish government.

He is one of 275 defendants in the high-profile case which includes army officers, lawyers, academics and journalists.

The court, which has been announcing the verdicts one by one, earlier acquitted 21 suspects.

The defendants faced dozens of charges, with prosecutors claiming the alleged network of secular arch-nationalists carried out extra-judicial killings and bombings in order to trigger a military coup.

The Ergenekon network is allegedly made up of loosely connected branches with the goal of toppling Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his Justice and Development Party (AKP) and restructuring Turkey on a nationalist footing.

The high-profile case has exposed deep divisions in Turkish society and is seen as a key test in the decade-long conflict between Prime Minister Erdogan and Turkey's secularist establishment.

The Ergenekon network, named after a mythical Turkic homeland, is believed to be part of the "Deep State" secret alliance, which is allegedly responsible for plotting attacks and of killing members of Turkey's political and cultural elite. Initially, the Turkish public widely welcomed the trial with hopes that it would bring to account the shadowy alliance however, as the trial advanced criticism grew.

Critics, including the main opposition party, have said the charges are trumped up, aimed at controlling the secularist establishment which has long dominated Turkey.

Ahead of the verdict, state authorities banned protests at the court, as defendants' supporters vowed to hold demonstrations against the five-year trial.

Security forces set up barricades around the courthouse in the Silivri jail complex.

hc/kms (Reuters, AFP, AP)

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