Majority of Turks believe mafia leader's accusations against government

The Avrasya opinion poll revealed that 75% of Turks believe Sedat Peker's accusations of corruption against the government to be true
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AFP/OZAN KOSE  -   A photograph taken on 26 May 2021 in Istanbul shows Sedat Peker speaking on his youtube channel on a mobile phone

A 75% of Turks believe that Turkish mafia leader Sedat Peker's accusations of corruption against the Turkish government are true, a survey by the Ottoman polling company Avrasya revealed on Thursday. Despite being accused by Erdogan's chief of staff, Oktay Saral, as a spokesman for "Turkey's enemies", Turkish society believes Peker's claims to be true.

Some 95 per cent of respondents sympathetic to opposition parties believe the politicians implicated in the allegations should leave office, while a third of voters backing Recep Tayyip Erdogan's government and its nationalist ally think the same, according to the survey.

Turkish mafia No. 1 Sedat Peker has in recent weeks, allegedly from Dubai, posted a total of eight videos on the YouTube platform in which he makes serious accusations against prominent political figures in Turkey, including several members of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP), ranging from murder to rape, drug smuggling, corruption and the role of organised crime in political machinations and violence. 

The series of videos posted by Peker have more than 80 million views. In one of them he boasts that his enemies "will be defeated by a tripod and a camera phone". Opposition voices to Erdogan's regime claim that Peker intends to expose corruption and mismanagement of the executive, others maintain that he has opened Pandora's box with "the deep secrets of the state". However, he is acting out of revenge against the government officials who brought criminal proceedings against him and raided his home.

In the latest video, Peker revealed Turkey's alleged movements in Syria and Libya. The mafia boss claimed that a paramilitary group called SADAT, under the supervision of the Turkish Presidency, was sending weapons to Al-Nusra jihadists in Syria disguised as an aid convoy originally sent to Syrian Turkmen. Peker has not presented documentary evidence to back up any of his claims, however, it is known that journalists from the Cumhuriyet newspaper were imprisoned for reporting on Turkish arms shipments sent to Syria in 2015. 

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PHOTO/REUTERS - Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan

The mafia leader's words angered the executive and SADAT, which strongly denied the claims. "Peker proved that he is acting under the orders of Turkey's enemies and internal evil alliances with his ridiculous statements," Oktay Saral reacted. "Our state will do what is necessary and all powers will recognise that this country will not be harmed with such absurd acts," he added.

Among the main targets is the current interior minister, Suleyman Soylu, one of the best-positioned candidates to succeed Erdogan. This has made him Peker's main target. In one of his videos, he claimed to have received police protection and, moreover, to have been warned of an investigation into his activities by the interior minister. 

Soylu himself reportedly sought the mafia leader's support to boost his political career and defeat a rival AK Party clique led by Erdogan's son-in-law, former finance minister Berat Albayrak, in a power struggle. The interior minister's reaction was to call the accusations "disgusting lies" and say he had been singled out for his fight against organised crime and "terror".

Peker has promised more videos on Turkey's political elite. While he has yet to level any accusations against Erdogan, whom he has referred to in respectful terms, he is expected to discuss his relationship with the president in the next video to be released this weekend. Erdogan, for his part, declared that Peker's claims were a plot against Turkey. "No one should doubt that we will thwart this devious operation," the president told his party members.

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AFP/ADEM ALTAN - Turkey's Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu
Behind the figure of Peker

Sedat Peker, 49, became known in the 1990s for his criminal activities. Between 2005 and 2014 he was in prison on a series of charges, including forming and leading a criminal organisation. Like other Turkish mafia figures, Peker has been linked to extreme right-wing nationalist positions, which is why after his release he became a fervent supporter of President Erdogan.

He was behind the organisation of AKP rallies when the AKP held positions bordering on Turkish nationalism and alliances with the far-right Nationalist Movement Party (MHP), on whose support the Justice and Development Party now depends to maintain a parliamentary majority. Peker himself threatened government critics and said he would "bathe" in the blood of academics who had called for an end to fighting between security forces and the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) in Turkey's southeastern cities in 2016.

Despite winning business and philanthropic awards, the mob leader fled the country in 2020 to avoid prosecution after accusing Turkish police of mistreating his wife and daughters in a raid on the family home last month. The Ankara prosecutor's office issued a new arrest warrant for him on Wednesday, although he is now reportedly living in the United Arab Emirates after reportedly spending time in Eastern Europe.