Turkish court sentences former military chief to life

Istanbul, Aug 5 (EFE).- The former commander of Turkey's armed forces was one of a score of people sentenced to life in prison Monday for a plot to overthrow the Islamist government of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

Retired Gen. Ilker Basbug, who was chief of the general staff from 2008-2010, was condemned as the ringleader of the so-called Ergenekon conspiracy.

The court acquitted 21 defendants.

Sentenced to life along with Basbug were five other retired generals, journalists and politicians, including Dogu Perincek, leader of the left-wing, nationalist Workers Party.

Around 100 other defendants received prison terms ranging from two to 49 years.

The five-year-long trial was held at the High Criminal Court in Silivri, 40 kilometers (25 miles) west of Istanbul, and police used tear gas and water cannon to keep protesters away on Monday.

Prosecutors said the Ergenekon plotters planned to carry out attacks, blame them on Islamists and then use the violence as a pretext to oust the Erdogan government.

Turkey has witnessed three military coups since 1960.

Erdogan's political opponents and human rights activists say the prosecution was engineered to purge the military of people who differ with the Islamist government.

The Turkish military portrays itself as a guardian of secularism.