, SILIVRI, Turkey August 6- A Turkish court has sentenced a former army chief to life in prison in a high profile trial of 275 people accused of plotting against the Islamic rooted government, a verdict that sparked angry protests in the streets.
Police fired tear gas and water cannon at thousands of protesters outside the court after the verdicts, which resulted in lengthy prison sentences for most of the accused, including top brass, journalists and opposition lawmakers.
The trial was seen as a key test in Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s showdown with secularist and military opponents during his decade long rule.
Ex military chief Ilker Basbug, several other army officers as well as reporter Tuncay Özkan and lawyer Kemal Kerinçsiz, were all sentenced to life in prison, while 21 people were acquitted.
“The final say belongs to the people,” local media quoted Basbug as saying.
“Those who have always stood by…justice have a clear conscience. I am one of those people.”
Fierce clashes erupted between police and about 10,000 protesters near the court complex after the verdicts were announced, an AFP photographer reported.
Protesters threw stones at riot police who responded with water cannon, tear gas and rubber bullets to break up the demonstration, which blocked traffic on the Istanbul Tekirdag highway near the court.
In Ankara, hundreds of people also took to streets in protest at the court ruling, chanting: “We are soldiers of Mustafa Kemal Ataturk,” a reference to modern Turkey’s founder.
Tensions were high outside the high security tribunal in the town of Silivri, near Istanbul, throughout the hearing.