Ex-footballers linked to terrorist group face prison

DAILY SABAH
ISTANBUL
Published

Prosecutors wrapped up an indictment yesterday against six former footballers accused of membership to the Gülenist Terror Group (FETÖ). The athletes, including two former Fenerbahçe players - one of the victims of FETÖ's plots - face prison terms of up to 15 years.

FETÖ, a terrorist group with infiltrators everywhere, from law enforcement to the judiciary, moved to seize power in July 15, 2016. A coup attempt by FETÖ followers in the army was foiled and it was followed by a nationwide crackdown on the group. Footballers were among the thousands detained for links to the group in the aftermath of the coup attempt.

The sportsmen were being investigated for the "football structure" of the terrorist group. FETÖ, which posed as a charity with religious undertones for decades, sought to expand its clout in Turkish football as well, prosecutors believe. Prominent football club Fenerbahçe claimed that they were victims of a plot by prosecutors, judges and police chiefs loyal to the group when its chairman Aziz Yıldırım was jailed on match-fixing charges in 2012. Bekir İrtegün, who played for six years for Fenerbahçe before joining Medipol Başakşehir and Zafer Biryol, who played for one season for the team, are among defendants in the FETÖ case. Ömer Çatkıç, who capped 19 times for Turkish national team and Biryol are the only suspects in jail while the other suspects were freed pending trial after they confessed their ties to the group.

The defendants had admitted attending meetings of FETÖ members, though they claimed they have seen the group only as a religious charity. Çatkıç is accused of being a user of ByLock, an encrypted messaging app exclusively used by FETÖ for communication between followers, while others are accused of donating to the group.

Investigations are still underway for other suspects in FETÖ's football-related cases. Authorities already issued arrest warrants for Hakan Şükür and Arif Erdem, two former Galatasaray players. Şükür lives in the United States like FETÖ's leader Fetullah Gülen, while Erdem is believed to have fled to Europe.

Share on Facebook Share on Twitter