Gangster transposes Turkey with video tirade against political elite

With a smirk on his face and a shiny gold medallion on his chest, fugitive gangster Sedat Peker stabbed Turkey with explosive accusations leveled against the political elite in a series of YouTube videos.

Peker, who spent a decade in prison in Turkey for his involvement in organized crime and is now wanted for leading a criminal group, broadcasts from a rented room he says in Dubai. In seven videos that have been viewed a total of 55 million times, he drops explosive accusations that some government officials or their family members are involved in drug trafficking, rape and murder.

Peker did not implicate President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, whom he affably calls Tayyip Abi, or “brother,” but his allegations of corruption and stabbing in the leader’s inner circle have tainted the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP), which came to power two decades ago with the promise to break the grip of organized crime on politics.

The gangster began his video assault earlier this month following a raid on his Istanbul home in April in which he said police harassed his wife and daughter.

This week, Erdogan broke his silence to present Peker’s claims as part of a long-standing plot by dark alien forces to undermine his power. “We made Turkey, where these so-called babas [godfathers] known by pompous nicknames that were once boastful, a place where the law is the only valid method, ”he said in a televised speech.

Peker appears to have taken the AKP on the back foot at a time when its approval rating is at an all time high due to his handling of the coronavirus pandemic and the economic fallout. Elections are scheduled for 2023.

“The spread of the administration’s dirty laundry can lead the public to lose confidence that there is much ideology left in Erdogan’s camp,” said Soner Cagaptay, director of the Turkey program at the Washington Institute for politics in the Middle East.

“The Peker tapes reveal that it is about personal enrichment, nepotism and ties to the Mafia. Erdogan rules Turkey but he does not rule it, and the aura of stability is gone. Turkey looks like a house of cards. “

Part performance art and confessional at the same time, the videos show Peker swinging between banter and bellow. He offers little evidence for his unsubstantiated claims – which include the son of a former prime minister forged a new cocaine trade route between Latin America and Turkey; an AKP lawmaker raped a university student who was later found dead; and that Peker kept a former MP on a monthly installment of $ 10,000.

“I will teach tyrants that there is no weapon more dangerous than a man who faces death,” Peker tweeted in a teaser for a video, in which he said: “You will be defeated by a tripod and a phone camera. “

Much of his anger is directed at Turkish Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu. Peker claims he aided Soylu against a rival group within the AKP led by Berat Albayrak, Erdogan’s son-in-law, who resigned as finance minister last year.

He alleges that Soylu provided him security and warned a friend so he could escape arrest, but reneged on an agreement allowing him to return to Turkey after more than a year on the run.

Soylu has appeared on talk shows to deny all allegations made against him and has denied, or said he was unaware of, those directed against others. He filed a lawsuit against Peker for slander. Erdogan defended Soylu, saying the attack targeted the whole nation.

Sedat Peker’s seven videos have been viewed a total of 55 million times © Islam Yakut / Anadolu / Getty

Peker’s claims offer a rare glimpse of the political curtain in a country where the media is tightly controlled by the government.

“People are rushing to these videos because the government has created an environment where criticism is prohibited. [and] this guy makes fun of the Minister of the Interior, whom everyone fears, ”said Umit Kivanc, documentary maker and journalist.

The AKP’s partnership with the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) over the past half-decade has emboldened crime figures linked to ultranationalists. The MHP chief was pictured with another mafia boss last year after successfully requesting his release from prison.

Peker has come of age in a far-right youth group affiliated with the MHP and his nationalist credentials resonate with patriotic Turks. “He can flaunt that stuff and not necessarily face a backlash because he’s a darling of the far right. If they really pursued him, it could alienate the base within the MHP, ”said Ryan Gingeras, professor at the Naval Postgraduate School in California and author of a book on organized crime in Turkey.

“People have come to see politics as intimately linked to organized crime in Turkey because gangsters like Sedat Peker have not hesitated to shy away from the spotlight,” he added. “He’s basically a celebrity with a political agenda who has a criminal record.”

Peker cut his teeth as an extortionist and arranging football matches, according to Gingeras. His rap sheet dates back to the 1990s, when newspapers reported that he decorated the walls of his cell with oil paints and had washing machines and Roquefort cheese delivered to prison. He was tried and acquitted of murder, but was convicted in 2007 for setting up a crime syndicate and released seven years later.

A year later, he was campaigning for the AKP, declaring at a rally that he would “bathe in the blood” of intellectuals who had signed a petition calling for an end to the fighting with Kurdish militants. Months later, he was photographed with the president at a wedding and he won awards as businessman and philanthropist of the year.

Peker has now apologized to intellectuals and complained that politicians are exploiting nationalism to “turn us against each other”. Speaking in the videos, he also became involved in a series of offenses, such as organizing a botched coup against a Turkish Cypriot journalist who was later murdered by others, “breaking bones” a former AKP parliamentarian for insulting Erdogan’s wife and organizing thugs. attack a press office at the request of an AKP lawmaker.

While the accusations titillate Erdogan’s critics, they have fueled the trauma of the victims. After Peker blamed a former Home Secretary for the unsolved murder of journalist Ugur Mumcu in 1993, his widow Guldal tweeted: “Pull the bricks down, may the wall collapse and bury whoever is caught.” under him. “

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