Sedat Peker’s revelations are shocking Turkey. I reported the truth six years ago – by Can Dundar

6 Min Read

Turks are bracing for the next round of revelations from a mafia boss who has shaken President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s regime to its core. Sedat Peker, a onetime Erdogan confidant now living outside the country, has stunned the country with a series of videos alleging crimes committed by people close to the president.

I’ve been following the story with particular interest — since my own life has been directly affected by Peker’s past dealings.

In 2015, I published a news article revealing that Turkey’s main intelligence agency was helping to secretly send weapons to jihadists in Syria. Erdogan, who denied the allegation, ominously declared that I would “pay a heavy price.” I was soon arrested and imprisoned on charges of revealing state secrets. During my time in prison, I received a death threat from Peker. “You should pray for Erdogan, whom you call a dictator,” he wrote on his website. “If one of us ever becomes the President, the first thing to do would be to hang you.”

At the time Peker was already well known for his ultranationalist political views. He transformed his gang into a sort of unofficial pro-Erdogan militia. His thugs organized rallies in support of the government or terrorized critics into silence. He notoriously threatened a group of academics who called for peace with the Kurds, declaring that “we will shed their blood and bathe in it.”

It didn’t take me long to discover that there was substance to Peker’s warning. Two months after my release from prison in February 2016, I narrowly escaped an apparent assassination attempt in front of Istanbul’s Caglayan Courthouse.

Yet now Peker himself has dramatically confirmed the story that I published at the time. In a video he published on May 30, Peker said that his organization had been used to set up a truck convoy that was carrying weapons and ammunition to Jabhat al-Nusra, the al-Qaeda affiliate in Syria. Peker explained that the operation had been carried out by a paramilitary organization named SADAT, founded by a former military officer, Adnan Tanriverdi, who served as Erdogan’s chief security adviser.

The government clearly feels threatened by Peker’s revelations. Last week, a court reopened the case against me, requesting that Interpol issue a warrant for my extradition from my present home in Germany, where I’ve been living in exile since 2016. Interpol declined to do so, noting that it had already rejected previous requests.

Peker’s videos have had a devastating effect on the Erdogan regime. Among other things, he has alleged that the former prime minister’s son was directly involved in drug trafficking. He has said that a woman who claimed to have been raped by the son of a former interior minister was later found dead, and that the current interior minister once warned a criminal of his impending arrest, allowing him to flee.

Peker also claimed that he once ordered his gang to raid Turkey’s biggest newspaper at the government’s request. He alleged that his gang members once beat up an opposition member of parliament for the same reason, and that his group transferred money to gangs in Germany to assault opposition members there.

He has also revealed the names of police chiefs, judges, bureaucrats, investors and journalists who, he says, were involved in these dirty operations with him.

Imagine El Chapo as a YouTuber or Al Capone publishing his memoirs: That’s the kind of impact Peker’s confessions have had in Turkey.

Of course, we should be cautious about claims made by a criminal — which is precisely why his statements should be investigated, at the very least. Yet Turkish prosecutors have been strikingly reluctant to respond, and Erdogan has barely reacted. None of it has stopped Peker’s nine videos from already getting about 10 million views each.

Peker has so far stopped short of challenging Erdogan directly. But he has announced that he’s planning to settle accounts with the president in an upcoming video. He later explained that he had decided to postpone that revelation until after Erdogan’s planned meeting with Joe Biden on June 14. (It’s worth noting, by the way, that Biden — who has made highly critical statements about Erdogan’s authoritarian behavior over the years — accused Turkey of supporting militants linked to al-Qaeda and ultimately the Islamic State in a speech in October 2014. He later backtracked, apologizing for linking Turkey with the Islamic State.)

Being vindicated by a mafia boss is a strange feeling, and I can’t say that I’m entirely enjoying it. But I can’t deny a perverse sense of satisfaction. Erdogan’s approval rating has been plummeting, and Peker’s confessions are unlikely to burnish his own image, either. I’m reminded of an old Turkish proverb: “Those who play with fire will burn themselves.”

Can Dundar, former editor in chief of the leading Turkish newspaper Cumhuriyet, is now living in exile.

Source: Washington Post

Share This Article
Leave a comment