Claims of Gülen extortion toward Fener stirs debate

Claims of Gülen extortion toward Fener stirs debate

Claims of Gülen extortion toward Fener stirs debate

Galatasaray Chairman Duygun Yarsuvat has claimed that Fenerbahçe chairman Aziz Yıldırım was the target of a major match-fixing probe because he refused to pay $50 million to Fethullah Gülen, a claim denied both by Gülen and Yıldırım.

The biggest match-fixing investigation in Turkish football history is back on the agenda after Galatasaray Chairman Duygun Yarsuvat claimed that a 2011 probe into the matter was launched when Fenerbahçe Chairman Aziz Yıldırım refused to pay $50 million to the Fethullah Gülen movement.

“The Fethullah Gülen group asked for $50 million from Aziz Yıldırım. Neither Aziz Yıldırm nor Fenerbahçe paid that money. Then the known process was launched, a process which has not ended yet,” Yarsuvat was quoted as saying by daily Milliyet sports pundit Atilla Gökçe on Dec. 17.

Although the claims were rejected by both Yıldırım and the Gülen community, they were enough to rock Turkish football and Galatasaray itself.

“Ask about those claims to the person who told them,” Yıldırım was quoted as saying in yesterday’s daily Hürriyet. “Have you ever heard such a thing from me?” he asked.

Gülen rejects claims

Gülen’s lawyer Nurullah Albayrak also refuted Yarsuvat’s claims and said they would file a defamation complaint against the Galatasaray chair. Albayrak argued that Yarsuvat was “trying to get closer to the government due to tax fines imposed on the club on Dec. 12.”

The remarks were also not welcomed by Galatasaray supporters, many of whom took to social media to question the motive behind Yarsuvat’s remarks, slamming him for “trying to defend” the chairman of archrival Fenerbahçe.

Galatasaray Vice Chairman Hamdi Yasaman told daily Hürriyet that Yarsuvat had made “personal remarks that do not bind the club in anyway.”

The debate over the July 3, 2011, match-fixing investigation came days before the retrial of Yıldırım on organized rigging charges on Jan. 13.

The 13th Istanbul High Criminal Court ordered on June 23 the retrial of several convicted suspects, including Yıldırım, in the match-fixing case that shook the country’s football scene.

Yıldırım was first sentenced to jail in 2012 and fined 1.3 million Turkish Liras ($560,000) for match-fixing during the 2010-2011 season and of forming a criminal gang. He served about a year behind bars before being freed pending a retrial.

Fenerbahçe was banned for two seasons from European competition by UEFA due to the charges.

The court agreed to retry the suspects on the charges of being a member of a criminal organization, while it rejected Yıldırım’s demand for a retrial on the grounds that the investigation was part of a plot against the convicted suspects.

Yıldırım, whose appeal into his six-year, three-month match-fixing case was rejected by Turkey’s Supreme Court of Appeals last January, is facing at least two years in prison if the verdict stands. The convicted suspects were able to file yet another appeal after the Specially Authorized Courts, which also oversaw the match-fixing case, were abolished last March.

The prosecutor in the case, Mirza Coşkun, pleaded for a retrial, arguing Yıldırım had been mistakenly accused regarding some of the charges, while others were aggravated compared to the information contained in the investigation files.

The match-fixing probe was launched by Zekeriya Öz, one of the prosecutors involved in the December 2013 graft investigation targeting key Cabinet members and who has since been reassigned in a mass purge of police and the judiciary by the government.

Yıldırım has on various occasions claimed the probe was poltically motivated and that the Gülen Movement was behind the “plot.”