In a day of reckoning for the Gülenist Terror Group (FETÖ), its alleged members are facing trial for a plot to imprison renowned sports figures, including Aziz Yıldırım, chairman of Fenerbahçe football club.
Defendants are accused of illegally wiretapping Yıldırım as well as executives from Beşiktaş and other teams in an attempt to implicate them in a match-fixing scheme based on what Yıldırım and others have called "trumped-up charges."
The first hearing of the trial, where FETÖ's leader Fetullah Gülen and his followers stand accused of imprisoning Yıldırım and others by fabricating evidence in a sham trial, started off with a tense exchange between plaintiffs and defendants.
Yıldırım, the long-standing chairman of Istanbul giants Fenerbahçe, argued with Mehmet Baransu, a FETÖ-linked journalist, and Ali Fuat Yılmazer, a former police chief, as they were brought into the courtroom. They are both defendants in the case and are currently in prison.
Yıldırım was jailed five years ago for more than a year after he was accused of running a match-fixing scheme and a criminal gang. He was later acquitted of all charges against him when a new trial found that the judges, prosecutors and police officers who helped in his imprisonment may have had conspired against Fenerbahçe and other teams to serve the interests of FETÖ.
A total of 108 defendants including Gülen, a retired preacher accused of running a worldwide terror cult from his retreat in Pennsylvania in the United States, are accused in the case.
Baransu and Yılmazer are among the 15 people who have been jailed for other crimes while most of the other defendants in the case either remain on the run or have been released pending trial.
As Yıldırım, known for his off-field antics and being a short-tempered executive, entered the courthouse in Istanbul, Baransu, a journalist who leaked the match-fixing inquiry's details, murmured something, and Yıldırım claimed he swore at him.
Other plaintiffs backed Yıldırım and the defendants and plaintiffs hurled insults at each other.
"You deserve the death penalty, you are traitors," Yıldırım said to Baransu. "You conspired against us, you conspired against everyone."
The indictment in the case says İhsan Kalkavan, a businessman and former executive at the Beşiktaş football club, helped FETÖ gain a foothold in Turkish sports. Following a secret meeting of senior FETÖ figures, they had decided to eliminate Yıldırım, a fixture in Turkish sports since the 1990s as head of Fenerbahçe, one of the three major clubs in Turkish football.
Later, FETÖ-linked prosecutors who were handling a match-fixing case involving a small club included Fenerbahçe and other major clubs in the case in an attempt to justify their illegal wiretapping of the plaintiffs.
Eventually, Yıldırım and others were jailed on charges of widespread match-fixing during the 2011-2012 season. Yıldırım was released pending trial in 2014, after a year of detention, and the defendants were acquitted in 2015 on charges of match-fixing.
Throughout the trial, Yıldırım maintained his innocence and claimed that evidence including wiretapped conversations allegedly revealing match-fixing deals were "faked."
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