Former Gen. Ilker Basbug, who served as the head of Turkey’s General Staff from 2008 to 2010, was sentenced to life in prison for his involvement in an alleged secularist terrorist network that sought to overthrow the Islamist-leaning Justice and Development (AK) Party government.

The general was one of dozens of people convicted on Monday in a courtroom at a prison complex near the capital Istanbul on numerous charges including illegal possession of weapons and affiliation with Ergenekon, an alleged ultra-nationalist terrorist network.

More than 270 military officers, professors and journalists are facing charges in a five-year trial pitting Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan and secularists in this NATO member and aspirant to European Union membership.

Hundreds of acting and retired officers have been arrested since Ergodan took office in March 2003, and he has been accused by critics of cracking down on secular forces. The Turkish military has staged three coups since 1960 and has a history of tensions with Islamists.

"This is Erdogan's trial, it is his theatre," Umut Oran, a parliamentarian with the opposition CHP party, told Reuters. "In the 21st century for a country that wants to become a full member of the European Union, this obvious political trial has no legal basis.”

Prosecutors have demanded life imprisonment for Basbug and nine other ranking members of the military, according to the BBC. In all, 63 people are facing the stiffest charges out of the lot of accused conspirators.