Fener chair takes aim at court

Fener chair takes aim at court

ISTANBUL - Hürriyet Daily News
Fener chair takes aim at court

Fenerbahçe fans sit outside Istanbul’s Çağlayan Courthouse, in front of Turkish football club’s chairman Aziz Yıldırım’s posters. The attendance outside the courthouse was well below expectations and the figures of last week’s hearings in Silivri. DAILY NEWS photo, Emrah GÜREL

Fenerbahçe Chairman Aziz Yıldırım said the match-fixing allegations had been plotted to “damage the club” during his defense yesterday, while only a couple hundred fans supported him outside. 

Yıldırım, who is the highest-profile name in the gripping match-fixing case and arguably the most powerful man in Turkish football, made a long statement focusing on the team’s long history during his highly-anticipated defense. He added that this history was the reason the match-fixing case, which saw a total of 93 football club officials, players and coaches listed as suspects, was opened in the first place. 

“The Republic of Fenerbahçe has developed side by side with the Turkish Republic. It has been representing Turkish youth following [founder of the Turkish Republic Mustafa Kemal] Atatürk for decades,” Yıldırım said while sitting behind a special seat with attached microphone in the courtroom. “That is the reason why there are efforts to damage it.” 

There were campaign efforts among Fenerbahçe fans to support Yıldırım, who has been jailed pending trial since early July last year, but there were only around 200 people at the Çağlayan Courthouse yesterday, slightly fewer than a day before, the first day the hearings moved to central Istanbul. 

Last week more than a thousand fans were present in the blistering cold during the first hearings at the Silivri courthouse, which is about an hour from the center of Istanbul. 

A supporter who wanted to remain anonymous said, “Not all Fenerbahçe fans support Aziz Yıldırım. That may be the reason there is not a huge crowd today.” 

Another fan said the media exaggerated an incident of a group of fans fighting outside the courtroom on Feb. 20 so supporters abstained from going there.

Yıldırım struck out against the media as well. He criticized the daily HaberTürk, without giving its name, for publishing his mug shot in July. Yıldırım had a t-shirt bearing that image, saying it was his “honor.” 

“Those who used that image in their newspaper are not purer than us, as they claim,” he said. 

Yıldırım also said evidence such as documents and wiretapped recordings were “leaked to the media on purpose despite the case’s confidentiality.”

Yıldırım criticized the case prosecutor, Mehmet Berk, as well. 

“The prosecutor used some of Fenerbahçe’s ordinary dinner events as evidence,” Yıldırım said in his defense. “Those dinners were organized by us, but some prosecutors such as Zekeriya Öz [who is best known for his work on the alleged deep-state Ergenekon case] also attended those dinners. Did they commit a crime as well?”

Yıldırım wanted to continue his plea, “giving some special information about the prosecutors of his case,” but the chief judge, Mehmet Ekinci, told Yıldırım not to, saying it was “irrelevant to the subject of the case.” 

According to the indictment, Yıldırım is charged with not only manipulating games but also with “forming an unarmed criminal organization” which intended to obtain financial income through sport. 

“No matter how much you judge it, you cannot terminate Fenerbahçe,” Yıldırım said. “Those facilities, stadiums and training grounds I built, all [of it] I did, if they mean an organization, yes, I formed and managed an organization.”

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