United States condemns devastating humanitarian toll of Houthi Marib offensive in Yemen
Whistleblower or vengeful ex-convict? Mafia boss Sedat Peker sets off political storm in Turkey
DUBAI: Millions of Turks eagerly await the next bombshell video of fugitive organized crime boss Sedat Peker, in which he is expected to detail his ties to President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
Peker, 49, a leading Mafia figure since the 1990s, travels regularly to avoid capture by Turkish authorities, having fled Turkey last year to avoid a criminal investigation.
On May 26, the Ankara Attorney General’s Office issued a new arrest warrant for Peker on suspicion of colluding with Fethullah Gulen, the US-based preacher whom Turkey blames for a coup. failed against Erdogan in 2016.
In a series of videos, which reached millions of YouTube viewers, Peker sparked accusations of corruption, mismanagement and links to organized crime within the Justice and Development Party (AKP) in the power of Erdogan.
His allegations, which have rocked the political establishment, include drug and arms trafficking and the long-standing cooperation between senior Turkish officials and Al-Nusra militants in Syria.
Peker’s videos sound like “live reporting from inside the gang” and should be taken seriously, Gokcer Tahincioglu, a Turkish investigative journalist, told Reuters.
“There is a confessor who is not anonymous and who wants to speak about himself. Why shouldn’t he be heard? He must be heard.
In what appears to be a concerted campaign to blacken the names of his former accomplices, Peker’s allegations cover corrupt practices, the absence of the rule of law and rivalries between the security apparatus and the judiciary.
Peker says his statements are aimed at “taking revenge” on the Turkish government and in particular on Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu, who allowed police to raid his home in April after falling out with the regime.
Soylu has dismissed the charges against him, including extending Peker’s police protection after his release from prison and warning of a crackdown on his organization.
He called the allegations “disgusting lies” and a plot against the country.
Erdogan has vigorously defended his government’s record in the fight against organized crime. “We have crushed criminal organizations one by one for 19 years,” he told lawmakers on May 26, insisting he stood “side by side” with Soylu.
Peker resurfaced on May 30 in his eighth video, this time accusing the country’s leaders of conspiring with a paramilitary force to send weapons to al-Qaeda-linked terrorist groups in Syria.
Peker claimed that Turkey sent arms to Al-Nusra Front militants through a paramilitary group called SADAT, formed in 2012 by a retired general and 23 officers expelled from the armed forces because of their allegiances Islamists.
The Al-Nusra Front, now called Hayat Tahrir Al-Sham (HTS), retains control of the Syrian rebel-controlled Idlib province, which runs along Turkey’s southern border.
In his video, Peker alleges that doing “big business” in Syria requires not only permission from the presidential head of administrative affairs, Metin Kiratli, but also pro-government businessmen and an Al-Nusra activist, Abu Abdurrahman.
Peker also hinted that the trail of the money could never be traced back to the Turkish state after it was covered up by a “corrupt network” with the help of the interior minister.
He claimed to have organized the shipment of military equipment to the Syrian Turkmens and shared the plan with an AKP lawmaker to receive permission to send the trucks in 2015.
He also said he opposed sending aid to the Al-Nusra Front because the group was fighting Turkmen minorities in Syria. He said the trucks had been hijacked and sent to Al-Nusra fighters instead by a group within SADAT.
“They diverted aid trucks for Turkmens to Al-Nusra under my name, but I did not send them – SADAT did. I was informed about this by one of our Turkmen friends, ”Peker said in the video.
The paramilitary society is closely linked to the Turkish government and is said to have played a role in the recruitment and training of militants during the Syrian and Libyan civil wars.
Peker has been in and out of prison since 1998 on charges of racketeering, forgery, robbery, false imprisonment, incitement to murder and forming and running a criminal organization.
Among the politicians involved in his videos is Binali Yildirim, another former prime minister and now AKP vice-president. Peker said Yildirim’s son Erkam made frequent trips to Venezuela to set up a new international drug trafficking route to Turkey.
Yildirim claimed that Erkam’s trips were to provide COVID-19 aid, but his defense backfired when Turkish customs data showed that no such medical equipment left Turkey in the dates in question.
Peker’s claims infuriated the Erdogan government.
“Peker has shown that he is acting under orders from Turkey’s enemies and evil national alliances with his ridiculous statements,” Chief Presidential Advisor Oktay Saral said. “Our state will do what is necessary and all powers will recognize that this country will not be damaged by such absurd acts.”
Nonetheless, a new survey from polling firm Avrasya suggests that most Turks – 75% – believe Peker’s claims.
“When the AKP was created in mid-2001, corruption was one of the vices it promised to eradicate, but it has now become even more prevalent,” wrote Yasar Yakis, former Turkish minister of government. Foreign Affairs and founding member of the AKP. a recent column for Arab News.
“Peker’s revelations have opened a debate in Turkey about whether to end the devastating corruption that is ruining all state structures.”
Peker’s accusations sparked a deep scrutiny of the country’s deep state apparatus. At the center of this review are the trials of Mehmet Agar, former interior minister and police chief, and Korkut Eken, former intelligence official.
Agar and Eken will face retrial for 18 extrajudicial executions that took place in the 1990s after an appeals court ruled to overturn their acquittals in a ruling that was passed on April 5. The court said the evidence had not been properly examined.
Agar and Eken made headlines following allegations by Peker, who accused them of committing several illegal acts under the state apparatus, including their involvement in an international drug trafficking system and the assassination of investigative journalists Ugur Mumcu and Kutlu Adali.
Journalist and peace activist Adali was shot dead outside his home in July 1996 in the administration of northern Cyprus. The murder is not solved.
Adali’s wife filed a complaint with the European Court of Human Rights against Turkey, and in March 2005 the court found that Ankara had failed to conduct a proper investigation into the murder of the Turkish Cypriot journalist.
Turkish police last week arrested Sedat’s brother Atilla Peker after he said he assigned his brother to a botched mission to kill Adali 25 years ago on state orders.
Mumcu was killed by a car bomb in January 1993 outside his apartment in Ankara. Peker alleged that Hagar was involved in the murder.
It remains to be seen how the Turkish government will deal with the fallout from the accusations and whether Soylu, who is at the center of claims over state-Mafia relations, will step down.
The first notable remark in Peker’s revelations came from veteran politician Cemil Cicek, former justice minister and speaker of parliament.
When a few senior AKP members raised their voices against corruption, he said: “If a thousandth of what Peker says turns out to be true, it is already a disaster for the country.
“Public prosecutors who hear or read such scandalous news don’t need a call to action. They are expected to pursue these allegations on their own without being asked or asked to do so. “
If Peker continues to denounce his past ties to the highest echelons, it could prove to be a litmus test for the Turkish government’s popularity and ability to act against the criminal underworld ahead of elections scheduled for 2023.
The charges could undermine the ratings of a government that has already lost considerable public support.
As for the likely implications for voter behavior, the AKP and its far-right ally, the Nationalist Movement Party, regularly lose popular support.
“This drop is not reversible. No doubt about it, ”Sinem Adar, associate of the Center for Applied Turkey Studies at the German Institute for International and Security Affairs, told Arab News. “Peker’s allegations are, in that sense, another blow to an already losing alliance.
“More than electoral support, however, the damage is reflected more in terms of the solidification and intensification of the conflict and competition already existing between the different cliques within the ruling alliance.”