ISTANBUL: In a remarkable twist of events which will reawaken an old UEFA controversy, an Istanbul prosecutor has demanded the acquittal of high-profile suspects, including Fenerbahçe president Aziz Yıldırım, in Turkey’s infamous match-fixing case writes KEIR RADNEDGE.
The Istanbul club was banned from European club competition for two seasons after the original case, politically-inspired according to Yildirim, came to court. It is unknown yet whether Fenerbahce will consider seeeking to pursue UEFA for lost revenues.
Prosecutor Abdullah Mirza Coşkun demanded the acquittal of Yıldırım on charges of “founding a criminal organization” and “match-fixing.” Other charges had been laid against various officials named by the prosecutor as Tayfur Havutçu, Olgun Peker, Şekip Mosturoğlu, and Korcan Çelikay.
In a his seven-page opinion submitted to Istanbul’s 13th High Criminal Court, prosecutor Coşkun demanded the acquittal of Yıldırım on charges of “founding a terrorist organization” and “match-fixing,” the acquittal of Peker on charges of “founding a criminal organization,” and the acquittal of suspects Abdullah Başak, Ahmet Çelebi and İlhan Yüksel Ekşioğlu on charges of “being a member of a criminal organization” and “match-fixing.” Coşkun also demanded the acquittal of other suspects in the case on similar charges.
However, he demanded prison terms of up to seven years for suspects Selim Kımıl and Olgun Peker on charges of “threatening” and “using and producing false documents.”
The judge has postponed the case until Friday.
The original case came to court in July 2011 and shook Turkish football to the core. It also raised a smear across the city of Istanbul’s bid to win host rights to the 2020 Olympic Games (subsequently awarded to Tokyo).
Millionaire developer Yıldırım was sentenced to jail in 2012 and fined 1.3 million Turkish Liras ($560,000) for forming a criminal gang and match-fixing during the 2010-2011 season. He served around one year in detention before being freed pending a retrial.
Fenerbahçe were duly banned for two seasons from European competition by UEFA because of the charges.
The court agreed to retry the suspects on the charges of being a member of a criminal organization but it rejected Yıldırım’s demand for a retrial on the grounds that the investigation was part of a “plot” against the convicted suspects.
The convicted suspects were able to file appeal after the highly-controversial Specially Authorized Courts, which oversaw the match-fixing case among others, were abolished in March 2013.
Prosecutor Coşkun pleaded for a retrial, arguing that Yıldırım had been mistakenly accused regarding some of the charges, while other charges were exaggerated compared with the information in the investigation files.
The match-fixing probe was originally launched by Zekeriya Öz, one of the prosecutors involved in the December 2013 graft investigation targeting key cabinet members. Öz has since been purged as part of government attempts to target sympathizers of U.S.-based Islamic scholar Fethullah Gülen.
Yıldırım has repeatedly claimed that the match-fixing case was a politically motivated plot hatched by the Gülen movement.
On June 23, the court ordered a retrial of various convicted suspects.