A Turkish court on Tuesday issued a compulsory legal text explaining the reasons for its rulings in a trial in which they found 53 police officers guilty of trying to overthrow the government and causing turmoil in the country by revealing match-fixing in the Turkish Super League in 2011.
According to the 2,899-page document obtained by Nordic Monitor, the İstanbul 24th High Criminal Court claimed that the defendants, who were affiliated with the Gülen movement, an outspoken critic of the regime of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, in 2011 “attempted to create an environment of social polarization and unrest,” aiming to portray the state and the government as responsible for the situation.
However, a noteworthy chronological mistake was made by the court: No serious problem had surfaced between the Gülen movement and the Erdoğan government that year. The relationship between Erdoğan and the movement broke down at the end of 2013, when a graft probe into Erdoğan family members and cabinet ministers was revealed. Erdoğan described the corruption investigation as a coup to overthrow the government. Police officers involved in the match-fixing investigation previously stated in court that they had reported the details of the ongoing probe to their chiefs, who informed then-Prime Minister Erdoğan, claiming how absurd the accusation of trying to overthrow the government was.sokak2
One of the most interesting accusations in the court document is that the match-fixing investigation was decided at a secret meeting held at the headquarters of the now-defunct Zaman newspaper, at one time Turkey’s best-selling daily which was affiliated with the Gülen movement, and that the police launched an investigation in line with the decisions taken at the meeting. The court also claimed that plans were made at the meeting that the Gülen movement would take over the administration of the Fenerbahçe football club. The court based this accusation on a secret witness who claimed to have been present at the meeting in 2010.
However, İlhan İşbilen, a former lawmaker from Erdoğan’s party who was alleged to have been at the meeting by the secret witness, proved during the trial that he had been abroad at the time. The 75-year-old İşbilen is currently behind bars despite serious health problems.
Another person who proved he was not at the meeting, former chief executive of Turkey’s now-closed-down Samanyolu Media Group Hidayet Karaca, was given a prison sentence of 1,406 years.
Likewise, after the legal analysis of the Historical Traffic Search (HTS) records of the other people who allegedly attended the meeting , it became clear that some were outside İstanbul at the time and others were far from the Zaman building. Only Zaman Editor-in-Chief Ekrem Dumanlı was in the building, which is not surprising given that Dumanlı was a newspaper employee.
The court was bent on punishing the defendants, who were accused of devising a plot to put the government and Fenerbahçe in a difficult situation despite the fact that the alleged meeting at the Zaman building, which was the prosecutor’s key allegation, never took place.
Interestingly, the last court document did not claim that any police reports, evidence or wiretaps in the match-fixing investigation were fake or illegal. In other words, the police officers were found guilty of having collected real evidence.
Former police chief Nazmi Ardıç, who is also jailed, was sentenced to 1,972 years, 10 months at the same trial, while a former police officer was given 161 years, eight months on charges similar to Karaca’s. While some defendants were acquitted, others were given prison sentences of various lengths.
Chief Inspector Soner Koç, who took part in the investigation, wrote on Twitter that he did not understand why he was sentenced to 368 years in prison. “The reasoned decision was announced today. But once again I didn’t understand,” he added. Koç left Turkey to escape persecution and currently lives in exile.
The match-fixing scandal goes back a decade, when the police raided the homes of people prominent in football clubs as well as football club premises, on July 3, 2011, detaining some 60 people suspected of rigging football matches in two leagues. Many high-ranking football officials from various clubs, including Fenerbahçe and Beşiktaş, were arrested on charges of fraud and match-fixing during the 2010-11 season. A total of 31 people, including agents, former football players and club managers, with Fenerbahçe Club Chairman Aziz Yıldırım being the highest-profile figure, were jailed pending trial.
The scandal rocked the reputation of Turkish football and resulted in a UEFA ban for Fenerbahçe and Beşiktaş in European competitions. Fenerbahçe was banned from European club competition for three seasons — with one deferred — and fellow Turkish side Beşiktaş for one. Both bans were connected to the match-fixing that took place in domestic games in 2011. The Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) upheld the ban and rejected Fenerbahçe’s appeal against its two-season expulsion from European competitions for match fixing. Fenerbahçe was also punished by the Turkish Football Federation (TFF) and barred from taking part in 2012 in the million-dollar Champions League tournament due to its managers’ implication in the rigging scandal.
Yıldırım, regarded as the most powerful man in Turkish soccer, made a secret deal with Erdoğan to extricate himself from all charges in exchange for his and the fans’ support in elections. Fener, known as the Yellow Canaries, is believed to have the largest number of fans across Turkey. With the intervention of the government in 2014, İstanbul Chief Public Prosecutor Hasan Yılmaz, an Erdoğan loyalist, demanded the acquittal of Yıldırım, claiming that he was the victim of a plot.
In a quick retrial, all his crimes were whitewashed in 2015 by the Istanbul 13th High Criminal Court. The appeal is still pending. As if that were not enough, the government prosecutor initiated a new prosecution into the judges, prosecutors and police investigators who were involved in the original 2011 case in which dozens of suspects were investigated, prosecuted and tried and convicted of match-fixing. A new indictment was filed on December 1, 2016 for a number of journalists, members of the judiciary and law enforcement officers.