Six former Turkish national football team stars indicted over alleged Gülen links

An indictment seeking from 7 to 15 years in prison for six former Turkish footballers over links to the Gülen movement was accepted by the İstanbul 32nd High Criminal Court on Wednesday.

Among them, Ömer Çatkıç, who played for the national team 19 times, has been in pretrial detention since August 2017.

Çatkıç was part of the team during the World Cup success in 2002, when Turkey achieved third place in the tournament.

Another national team star, Zafer Biryol has been in pretrial detention since December 2017.

Biryol was the top goal scorer of the Turkish Super League with 25 goals in 33 games, in 2004.

Former Fenerbahçe footballers Bekir İrtegün and Uğur Boral, along with Ersin Güreler and İsmail Şengül, were briefly detained as part of the investigation in 2017 but were released on their own recognisance.

Turkey survived a controversial military coup attempt on July 15, 2016 that killed 249 people. Immediately after the putsch, the Justice and Development Party (AKP) government along with President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan pinned the blame on the Gülen movement.

Fethullah Gülen, who inspired the movement, strongly denied having any role in the failed coup and called for an international investigation into it, but President Erdoğan — calling the coup attempt “a gift from God” — and the government initiated a widespread purge aimed at cleansing sympathizers of the movement from within state institutions, dehumanizing its popular figures and putting them in custody.

Turkey has suspended or dismissed more than 150,000 judges, teachers, police and civil servants since July 15. On December 13, 2017 the Justice Ministry announced that 169,013 people have been the subject of legal proceedings on coup charges since the failed coup.

Turkish Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu announced on April 18, 2018 that the Turkish government had jailed 77,081 people between July 15, 2016 and April 11, 2018 over alleged links to the Gülen movement. (SCF with

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