Rigging case political, insists Fenerbahçe chairman
Fenerbahçe chairman Aziz Yıldırım will serve at least two years in prison as part of a match-fixing conviction. Yıldırım had already spent one year behind bars under arrest as part of the investigation. REUTERS photoFenerbahçe chairman Aziz Yıldırım reiterated his claim that the court ruling over a match-fixing scandal was politically motivated.
Speaking to Reuters in France, where he was on holiday, Yıldırım said the Turkish top court ruling on his sentence of six-years and three-months for match-fixing and leading an unarmed crime organization was a political conspiracy.
“As I said from the very beginning, the court case regarding match fixing in Turkey is a political case, and the ruling of this case has also been made politically,” he told Reuters. “I do not respect or recognise this ruling”
Yıldırım was set to return to Turkey late yesterday and groups of Fenerbahçe fans were expected to welcome him at the Sabiha Gökçen Airport.
The 61-year-old, who appealed for a “correction” of the decision to the Supreme Court of Appeals Prosecutor’s Office earlier this week, faces more than two years in prison if the ruling goes ahead. He has already spent one year in prison while under arrest.
In 2012, Yıldırım appealed against a six-year, three-month prison sentence after he was found guilty of match-fixing in Turkey’s top league and forming an unarmed crime gang for this purpose.
The court also upheld the sentences of other Fenerbahçe officials, including İlhan Ekşioğlu, Şekip Mosturoğlu, Tamer Yelkovan and Cemil Turan, for their involvement in manipulating several games in the 2010-2011 Turkish championship.
Scores of individuals, including agents, former players and club managers were arrested in the probe.
The case had been putting Fenerbahçe’s 2010-2011 season, in which it beat Trabzonspor to the title on goal difference, under scrutiny. The investigation also involved a number of players and officials from Beşiktaş, Eskişehirspor, Sivasspor, Giresunspor and Diyarbakırspor, and the Supreme Court also upheld the decisions on them.
Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, whose government is battling a wide-ranging corruption investigation, also criticized the court’s ruling, which will prevent Yıldırım from working for Fenerbahçe.
Erdoğan, who has cast the corruption scandal swirling around his government as a smear campaign by a “parallel state” within the judiciary, defended Yıldırım, saying he was he victim of a similar plot.
“The parallel state took a very finely calculated step here as well,” Erdoğan told a press conference on Jan. 20.
The Prime Minister’s supporters say the followers of U.S.-based Islamic scholar Fethullah Gülen, whose “cemaat” (community in Turkish) network is influential within the police and judiciary, are behind the corruption probe.
Unlike Erdoğan, however, Yıldırım has been all along defending the idea that the match-fixing case was politically motivated.
“What match-fixing?” he has asked during a hearing in 2012, “The country is going out of hand and they are speaking about this match-fixing.”
On Jan. 20, he repeated his claims, saying “The prime minister mentions a parallel
state. It’s that state, the ‘cemaat,’ who is behind the operation against us.”
The governing body of European football, UEFA, has banned Fenerbahçe and Turkish rival Beşiktaş from European competitions for match-fixing. The Court of Arbitraion for Sport has upheld the ban.