A Turkish court has sentenced a media executive and an ex-police chief to more than 1,000 years each in prison for conspiring to bring match-fixing charges against top Istanbul football club Fenerbahce.
A decade ago, Fenerbahce's former president Aziz Yildirim was jailed for six years for match-fixing and the club—supported by Turkey’s president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan—was excluded from European competitions for two seasons. However, Yildirim only spent a year in prison and the case was reopened after prosecutors alleged that it was founded on a conspiracy.
The 2011 match-fixing charges were pressed by prosecutors linked to Fethullah Gulen, the self-exiled, US-based preacher whom the Erdogan administration claims orchestrated the attempted coup in 2016—something Gulen strenuously denies. Since the attempted toppling of Erdogan, a massive crackdown on Turks alleged to have links with Gulen has seen the courts hand out more than 2,500 life sentences. Some 292,000 people have been detained, with trials pending for nearly 100,000 of them. Around 150,000 civil servants were sacked or suspended after the coup attempt, with 20,000 expelled from the military. The purge is still going strong.
‘Judiciary, police infiltrated’
In the Fenerbahce case, in 2016 an Istanbul prosecutor's indictment alleged the 2011 match-fixing charges stemmed from a plot by Gulen supporters said to have infiltrated the Turkish judiciary and police. They were accused of attempting to frame the club, targeting the removal of its executives, according to a Reuters report.
The court on June 4 sentenced Hidayet Karaca, who was head of Samanyolu media group (it has since been shut down by the government) to 1,406 years in jail. Karaca was accused of instigating the tapping of phone calls and forging of documents.
Former police chief Nazmi Ardic was sentenced to 2,170 years on charges including forging documents and conspiring against the club. The court handed down jail sentences to at least 25 other defendants, state-owned news service Anadolu Agency reported.
Fenerbahce chairman Ali Koc told reporters that the court decision proved the club had been the innocent victim of a plot against it by Gulen's network. The club, he added, would now pursue legal avenues for "financial and moral" compensation.
The prosecutors and judges who opened and ruled on the original case fled the country following the coup attempt.