Turkey investigates "Rocky" for terrorism links

Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yıldırım has launched an investigation into a giant image of the film character "Rocky" at a football match after social media claims it was a subliminal message in support of the exile Muslim cleric blamed for last year’s failed coup.

The 50-metre high image, hinged at the arm so it could be raised in triumph, was suspended at Galatasaray’s stadium during a derby match against their Istanbul rivals Fenerbahçe.

Some social media pundits, however, said the stunt had a hidden message. The character Rocky famously hails from the city of Philadelphia in the U.S. state of Pennsylvania. They pointed out this state is also the adopted home of exile preacher Fethullah Gülen – Turkey’s number one suspect in the failed military coup attempt to topple President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

Moreover, social media critics said, one of the slogans on placards flanking Rocky – "Get on your feet" – echoed the words of Gülen, who had read out a poem ending "Get on your feet Sakarya" only a week before. Sakarya is a province to the east of Istanbul

The connection between Gülen and football is not new. The parliamentary report into the failed coup said the Gülen movement was behind a 2011 judicial inquiry into Fenerbahçe match-fixing, and quotes a sound recording of Gülen saying "Galatasaray must be brought to its feet through help and prayer".

Fenerbahçe fans also pointed to a similar slogan appearing on the same day at a second division match between Silivrispor and Şanlıurfaspor. Silivri is Istanbul district in which most terror suspects, including Gülenists, are being held in prison.

Galatasaray Chairman Dursun Özbek strongly denied the allegations. "The Galatasaray community is devoted to the homeland and the state," he said.

As it rose to power in 2002, Erdogan’s AK Party was an ally of the Gülen movement which ran a network of schools, charitable foundations and media outlets in Turkey and around the world. But tensions between the two Islamist power blocs reached breaking point in December 2013 when prosecutors allegedly linked to the movement brought corruption charges against four ministers and their relatives.

Some 50,000 people are under arrest and 100,000 have been sacked from state jobs for links to Gülen under state of emergency powers since the 2016 coup.

Sylvester Stallone, who played Rocky in all seven films, appeared impressed with the spectacle, posting a clip of the image on his Instagram account.

But some Turkish fans were angry. "You are Gülenist too, Rambo? Scoundrel," one responded.