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Former Turkish Army Chief Jailed for Life

A Turkish court has sentenced a former army chief to life in prison and dozens of others to long jail terms for an alleged conspiracy to overthrow the country's Islamist government.

Retired military chief of staff, General Ilker Basbug, was the most prominent defendant among some 250 people facing verdicts Monday for their roles in the so-called "Ergenekon" conspiracy to overthrow Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan's government.

Judges also sentenced three serving members of parliament from the opposition Republican People's Party to between 12 and 35 years in prison while acquitting 21 others.

The defendants in the landmark and divisive case include military officers, politicians, academics and journalists.

The rulings cap a five-year trial that has been a central drama in tensions between the country's secular elite and Mr. Erdogan's Islamist-oriented AKP party.



Security forces blocked access to the tribunal in the town of Silivri near Istanbul, allowing in only suspects, lawyers and journalists.

While prosecutors say the defendants are guilty of varying levels of involvement in the alleged plot, critics say the legal proceeding has been a ploy to intimidate opponents and critics of the government.

The international community has voiced concern about the trial.

The U.S. State Department's annual human rights report cited the prolonged pretrial detention of many of the defendants. Human Rights Watch has also criticized the case, saying there are serious concerns about the fairness of the trial.

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