Turkish mafia boss dishes dust, becomes YouTube phenomenon

ANKARA, Turkey (AP) — From alleged drug trafficking and a homicide cover-up to weapons transfers to Islamic militants, a convicted crime ringleader has been dishing the dust on members of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s ruling get together by means of a collection of tell-all movies which have captivated the nation and turned him into an unlikely social media phenomenon.

Sedat Peker, a 49-year-old fugitive crime boss, who as soon as brazenly supported Erdogan’s Justice and Development Party, has been releasing practically 90-minute lengthy movies from his said base in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, making scandalous however yet-unproven drip-by-drip allegations, in an obvious bid to settle scores with political figures.

The weekly YouTube movies have been seen greater than 75 million instances, inflicting an uproar, heightening issues over Turkish state corruption and placing officers on the defensive. They have additionally uncovered alleged rifts between rival factions inside the ruling get together and added to Erdogan’s troubles as he battles an financial downturn and the coronavirus pandemic.

On Sunday morning, a pair in Istanbul have been absorbed whereas watching Peker’s newest launch. They have been amongst tens of millions in Turkey who tuned in.

“I’ve added (Peker’s videos) to the category of TV series I watch every week,” Gulistan Atas mentioned. “Just like a TV episode, I wait in excitement, and every week on Sunday, we prepare our breakfast when we get up and watch them along with our breakfast.”

Clad in a waistcoat or a half-buttoned shirt displaying a medallion, Peker taunts his opponents from behind a desk with neatly organized notes, prayer beads and books, promising to convey their downfall utilizing nothing greater than a “tripod and a camera.”

His preliminary movies focused former Interior Minister Mehmet Agar and his son, Tolga, a ruling get together lawmaker, whom he accused of raping a younger Kazakh journalism pupil and later overlaying up her homicide as a suicide. Mehmet Agar, Peker urged, misappropriated a luxurious marina which will have been utilized in drug trafficking operations. Agar later resigned from the marina’s board.

Subsequent movies leveled accusations towards enterprise folks and media figures near the federal government, in addition to former Prime Minister Binali Yildirim’s son, claiming he was concerned in drug smuggling from Venezuela. But the goal of Peker’s most vitriolic and mocking assaults is Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu, whom he accuses of abuse of energy and corruption whereas aiming to turn into Turkey’s president. Peker justifies the tell-all by saying Soylu betrayed him regardless of the crime chief’s assist to defeat a rival faction inside the ruling get together.

All these implicated have rejected Peker’s accusations.

In an explosive declare with worldwide dimensions, the mob boss mentioned {that a} former safety advisor to Erdogan accused of main a paramilitary pressure had despatched weapons to Al-Qaida-linked militants in Syria. Erdogan hasn’t but addressed these claims though the federal government has prior to now denied allegations that it had armed jihadis.

Erdogan ignored the Peker movies for weeks, however broke his silence on May 26, when he dismissed earlier allegations by the mafia chief as a conspiracy towards Turkey.

“We will spoil these games, these plots. No one should doubt that we will disrupt this devious operation,” Erdogan mentioned. “We pursue members of criminal gangs wherever in the world they flee to … We will not leave these criminals alone until we bring them back to our country and hand them over to the judiciary.”

Peker responded to Erdogan that week and urged that the Turkish strongman could possibly be the main target of future movies. He later mentioned he would discuss Erdogan after his assembly with U.S. President Joe Biden on June 14 in order to not “weaken his hand.” In his newest video Sunday, he mentioned his revelations could be carried out with respect and would not damage the state itself.

“Will finding and bringing me (to Turkey) change the reality,” he mentioned.

Opposition events, in the meantime, have seized on the allegations to demand the resignations of implicated figures in addition to parliamentary and judiciary inquiries.

The ruling get together and its nationalist allies have blocked opposition bids to launch parliamentary inquiries into Peker’s claims in addition to into the arms smuggling allegations.

Authorities have issued a brand new warrant for Peker’s arrest.

Can Selcuki, the director of polling and evaluation platform Turkiye Raporu, mentioned of Peker: “We shouldn’t forget that he’s a criminal,” but explained the videos’ popularity as a need for information.

“It seems to me people are asking this illegal operator these questions because they can’t get answers elsewhere. And this tells me there’s a growing demand in Turkish society for more transparency,” Selcuki said.

Peker addresses his viewers, especially people under age 40, as the real owners of Turkey who have the power of demanding accountability and change.

A nationalist who advocates unity between Turkic-speaking nations, Peker has been in and out of prison since age 17 for his involvement in organized crime and other offenses. After his last release from prison in 2014, he held rallies to support Erdogan’s party and leveled threats against his opponents. His 2015 wedding to Ozge Peker, who was his lawyer, drew a host of celebrity guests.

In April, an operation was launched against Peker’s group, leading to the arrest of around 60 of his associates.

His home in Istanbul was also searched. Peker maintains that he was forced to speak out after his wife and two daughters were allegedly mistreated and humiliated during the police raid.

“They ask me why I am doing it,” Peker mentioned within the newest video. “I swear to God that at first I did it out of anger, I expected an apology … Now, I don’t know why I am doing it … I feel like doing it.”

Gulistan Atas’ husband Alparslan Atas mentioned Peker’s movies have been like the films “The Godfather” and “Scarface,” to be perpetually etched in folks’s recollections.

“I like that the state’s dirty laundry has come to light and spread around because knowing that the people who are in politics with their hands on the Quran can at the same time do cocaine business gives me interesting information,” he mentioned.

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Robert Badendieck, Zeynep Bilginsoy, Mehmet Guzel and Ayse Wieting contributed to this report from Istanbul.

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