Turkish court acquits Erdoğanist gang leader who threatened Gülen-linked people with hanging

Gang leader Sedat Peker (L) speaks with President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan during a wedding ceremony in 2015.

Sedat Peker, a convicted gang leader and staunch supporter of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, was acquitted by a Turkish court on Thursday in a case opened against him  for an inflammatory statement he made on the first anniversary of a controversial coup attempt on July 15, 2016, saying that they will hang all people allegedly linked to the Gülen movement to flagpoles and trees.

“They should pray for our president, who they call a dictator. May God save him [Erdoğan], if his visit to this world ends even in natural ways, they will see what a dictator is. God willing, we will hang all those who are sympathetic to them [Gülen movement], walked with them, stayed with them, on the nearest flagpole. We will hang them on the nearest tree,” Peker had said during a visit to Çengelköy Martyrs Cemetery in İstanbul.

Peker’s statement came a day after Erdoğan targeted people linked to the Gülen movement while speaking to a crowd of thousands at the July 15 Martyrs’ Bridge on the anniversary of the failed coup attempt.

“We’re not just some nomadic tribe, we are a nation. They, however, are a disease, disease. That’s the difference,” said Erdoğan.

“First we will cut off the traitors’ heads,” said the president while underlining that there were other powers behind the movement, which Erdoğan accuses of masterminding the coup attempt in July 2016.

“I have said these terrorists should be thankful for the state tradition they are trying to destroy because the state they want to destroy also protects them. And if they destroy the state, I said, they will no longer be protected. If there will be no state, their lives will also be come to an end with the necessary punishment given by patriotic citizens,” he said during a hearing at an İstanbul court. The court ruled for Peker’s acquittal despite his obvious confession of threats to commit a massacre.

Also, the pro-Erdoğan news website Haber7 had called for an Ottoman-like solution for the execution of people linked to the Gülen movement.

“This is an example of execution in the days where decisions were taken without losing time on investigations, interrogations and court procedures for people who rebelled against the state,” Haber7 tweeted on Sunday with a heading reading “The ideal execution method for FETÖ [a derogatory term coined by Erdoğan and the government to refer to members of the Gülen movement] was used by the Ottomans” along with an Ottoman miniature depicting the execution of people hung by hooks in their stomachs.

In May 2017, Peker was given the “Most Benevolent Businessman” award by the Milliyet daily, run by the Demirören Group, which is close to Erdoğan.

Peker is notorious for his threats against Erdoğan critics and opponents.

In a social media message in January, Peker declared his support for the transition to an executive presidency in Turkey while threatening those who were against holding a referendum to vote on the change in the country’s system of governance.

He vowed to vote “yes” for the amendments to the constitution and said, “We will be waiting on the streets for those who take to the streets to prevent the referendum, just as we took to the streets on the night of the July 15 coup attempt.”

Gang leader Peker, who has been convicted of several crimes, had also threatened academics who signed a petition calling for peace in early 2016.

“We will spill your blood in streams and we will shower in your blood,” said Peker in a message titled “The So-Called Intellectuals, the Bells Will Toll for You First,” posted to his personal website on Jan. 13.

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.

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