Turkey’s lawyers press charges against mob boss, politicians - live blog

Lawyers from the Izmir Bar Association have pressed charges against convicted mobster Sedat Peker and important figures from Turkey’s ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP), daily Cumhuriyet reported on Monday.

In the complaint the bar association cited Turkish Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu, former police chief and interior minister Mehmet Ağar, his son and current AKP deputy Tolga Ağar, and Erkan Yıldırım, son of former prime minister and AKP heavyweight Binali Yıldırım.

“Between May 2 and 23, 2021, Sedat Peker has made statements on his YouTube channel that have shaken the country, and his posts have climbed to top spots on the public’s agenda,” the Izmir bar said. “Said person’s talks contain important confessions on relations between the state and the mafia. It is a requirement of the state of law to take these confessions seriously and have an independent judiciary assess the claims.”

Despite three weeks of video drops, the most recent being Peker’s seventh video released on Sunday morning, no investigation has been launched to date, “as far as our chair is aware”, the bar said.

Peker’s videos have gained upwards of 100 million views on multiple social media platforms, including more than 80 million on YouTube alone, according to influence tracker Social Blade.

“Süleyman Soylu must be removed from his duties as Interior Minister at once as he stands hierarchically above those who would run the investigation, and the investigation must begin in haste,” the bar said. It continued:

“The Republic of Turkey must resolve the process via an effective investigation. Otherwise, society will be left with a country where the law is completely eliminated, and the strong, the illegal is the only legitimate voice. Such an eventuality is unacceptable.”

Among charges the Izmir Bar Association demands investigations on are drug trafficking, murder, rape and pillaging.

The bar association in the southeastern Kurdish majority Diyarbakır province also pressed charges against Mehmet Ağar, Mezopotamya Agency reported, for a renewed investigation of extrajudicial killings committed in the 1990s, the height of Turkey’s conflict with the armed militant group Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).

The Kurdish lawyers included another name, Korkut Eken, in their complaint. Eken was an intelligence official involved in the 1996 Susurluk Scandal, where shadowy relations between Turkey’s politicians, law enforcement and mafia were first revealed to the public via a car crash. Eken was also involved in several extrajudicial killings, as established by courts.

Main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) deputy and Parliamentary Justice Commission member Süleyman Bülbül called on President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan on Monday to make a statement on the allegations Peker posed, according to Cumhuriyet.

In his parliamentary inquiry, Bülbül said Peker’s accusations necessitated investigations on top bureaucrats and their families. “But first, the public must urgently be informed,” he said, calling on Erdoğan to make a statement on Minister Soylu.

Bülbül also submitted another parliamentary inquiry for Soylu to respond to, detailing questions over Peker’s allegations of corruption and trafficking.

(All times local Turkish time, GMT+3)

18:15 - Gov’t officials confirm multiple claims made by Peker

Sources, including officials from Turkey’s ruling AKP, have confirmed a number of claims made by mob boss Sedat Peker, BBC Turkish reported on Monday.

Claims by the organised mob leader that former interior minister and police chief Mehmet Ağar purchased the Yalıkavak Marina after laying charges against and subsequently imprisoning owner Azeri businessman Mübariz Mansimov Gurbanoğlu, are in fact "correct,’’ the official told BBC.

Another government official confirmed claims made by Peker that a gun was pointed at Peker’s family during a raid on his Istanbul home last month, which is believed to have sparked the mob boss’ tell-all videos.

"It is actually known that (acts including) pointing a gun at Peker’s child took place during that operation,’’ the source said, dismissing remarks by Soylu that such a move had not taken place.

Moreover, a government official also confirmed claims that a team under Soylu had put pressure on the chairman of Turkey’s Financial Crimes Investigation Board (MASAK) and his wife by way of a terror investigation in an attempt to prevent the chairman from carrying out his duties.

"It was known at that time that because MASAK was under the auspices of (Berat) Albrayrak’s ministry, it was caught in the middle of tensions between the two ministers,’’ the official said. 

17:30 - Interior Minister Soylu to speak on national TV

Turkish Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu is set to appear live on a broadcast by HaberTürk networ at 9 p.m. Turkish time (GMT+3).

Soylu will speak to several left-wing, moderate and pro-government journalists to respond to “allegations about criminal organisations, developments, and the war on terror” according to the news channel.

“Soylu rightfully wants to clear his name, and says he called on prosecutors to do their job. However, according to the constitution, the right to put a minister on trial for abusing his post only lies with the Supreme Tribunal,” dismissed academic and lawyer Cenk Yiğiter said, responding to HaberTürk’s call for questions directed at Soylu.

At least 301 deputies are needed to kickstart that process, after which the minister could be cleared, according to the legal scholar.

16:00 - Turkey’s ruling AKP like a ‘mafia-state,’ says pro-Kurdish MP

Musa Piroğlu, Istanbul deputy from the pro-Kurdish left-wing Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), said organized crime leader Sedat Peker’s  accusations were important for revealing how the “dirty war was financed”.

“The Justice and Development Party (AKP) works like a mafia state,” Piroğlu said. “They have turned into a criminal organisation from top to bottom. Peker is but one among the extras who make these crimes visible.”

Meanwhile, main opposition deputy Muharrem İnce, who has established a breakaway new opposition party, called on prosecutors to launch investigations over Peker’s claims

 “There are no prosecutors taking action. Where are you? No investigation. No committee in parliament,” İnce said. “The man they call an organized crime boss now held rallies in many provinces to ask for votes for Erdoğan just a few years ago.”

15:30 - Turkish community online discovers foreshadowing drug bust news

Turkish social media users discovered articles from last year detailing drug busts in Venezuela, in line with Sedat Peker’s accusations and developments in Turkey, which, at the time, seemed unambiguous.

News website Ultimas Noticias reported in October that the Venezuelan National Guard discovered cocaine hidden in over 100 blocks of cheese.

Users have speculated whether the drugs had been heading to Turkey, as per Peker’s claims and a trade deal finalized shortly before the bust suggest.

According to a trade deal in August, Venezuela would start exporting cheese to Turkey with no customs charges, daily Cumhuriyet reported. The move had been criticised as unnecessary and anti-publicly-minded at the time.  

Peker said the son of former prime minister Binali Yıldırım had travelled to the South American country twice to establish a new route for drug trafficking after the Colombia route died down.

13:00 - Peker’s videos top IMDb TV charts

“Sedat Peker: Cici Sülü”, a faux television series introduced to the Internet Movie Database (IMDb) following the release of the mobster’s tell-all videos, rose to first place on the website’s top rated TV shows list, with viewers bestowing an extraordinary 9.6 points out of 10 for the “series”.

The faux series, whose name includes a mild homophobic insult against Peker target Turkish Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu, surpassed beloved documentary series Planet Earth and TV dramas Band of Brothers, Breaking Bad and Chernobyl on IMDb’s list.

The description for the since-deleted faux entry read:

“A mafia leader with deep connections to the government is ousted and his house raided. Now he is seeking revenge against the ones done him wrong by exposing the dark connections between the mafia and the government.”

11:30 - Turkish governor comes out in support of former PM’s son accused of trafficking

The governor of Turkey’s southwestern Burdur province, Ali Arslantaş, tweeted his support son of former prime minister Binali Yıldırım, Erkam Yıldırım, who has been accused of extensive involvement in drug trafficking from Latin America.

“I am no Mecnun, friend, but if you call I will come to the desert! Mevlana,” Arslantaş tweeted, referencing a traditional Turkish epic love story where Mecnun sought his love Leyla in the desert for years.

The governor included photos of himself and Yıldırım together, taken at Burdur’s Lake Salda, the fifth cleanest lake in the world that has been under threat from developers who want to exploit its touristic potential. The lake was also used by NASA because its mineral makeup is very similar to a crater on Mars.

09:30 - Saturday Mothers call on prosecutors to take action

Turkish advocacy group Saturday Mothers, who have gathered every Saturday since 1995 to demand justice for their forcibly disappeared children and other relatives, called on Turkey’s prosecutors to fulfill the requirements of the law in a statement they released.

“We have said this for a quarter of a century: Mehmet Ağar established a criminal organisation that involved state officials, within the knowledge of the state,” the group said. “As a result of this organisation’s activities, our children were disappeared and murdered.”

Saturday Mothers accused Turkey of covering up “this truth that has been cited in state-written reports and court proceedings”, “instead of revealing the perpetrators and the powers behind the crimes”.

The group called on all prosecutors in Turkey to “fulfill their obligations that arise from the law”.