ANKARA - A Turkish court has ordered the release of retired Gen. Hurşit Tolon, accused of plotting to topple the government, due to a lack of evidence, after being held in custody for seven months, the Anatolia news agency said late Saturday.
Tolon’s health has worsened in recent months and he was taken to a military hospital in Istanbul. Tolon, Eruygur and more than 100 people including prominent journalists, academics, writers, politicians and former officers were held as part of Ergenekon investigation, in which an alleged organization is said to have attempted to overthrow the pro-Islamic Justice and Development Party, or AKP, government in 2003 and 2004. The detention of former four-star generals caused tension between the establishment and the AKP government. Chief of General Staff Gen. İlker Başbuğ met several times with Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan to discuss the detention of retired top generals, a source of uneasiness among military brass.
"He served seven months in prison because of a document that was not counted as evidence," wrote daily Cumhuriyet in its Sunday edition, criticizing the entire Ergenekon investigation. Mehmet Altan, a columnist for daily Star, a pro-government newspaper, said with the release of Tolon there were no longer any four-star generals in prison.
Ergenekon is a far-reaching case that started in June 2007, when Istanbul police found 27 hand grenades in a slum-house in the Ümraniye district. Findings led to scores of detentions, putting more than a hundred journalists, writers, gang leaders and politicians under interrogation in what has turned into a terror investigation, seeking to crack down on an alleged ultra-nationalistic gang named Ergenekon. The gang is alleged to have sought to topple the government by staging a coup in 2009 by spreading chaos and mayhem beforehand. Ergenekon is the name of a pre-Islamic Turkish saga about Turks’ reemergence from defeat through the trickery of their enemies under guidance of a gray wolf. Earlier bombings of Cumhuriyet daily, the murder of Hrant Dink and the alleged assassination plans against high profile figures in Turkish politics are sometimes associated with the case.