With a smile on his face and a gold medal shining on his chest, fugitive gangster Sedat Peker has transfigured Turkey with explosive accusations leveled at the political elite in a series of YouTube videos.
Peker, who has spent a decade in prison in Turkey for his involvement in organized crime and who is now wanted to lead a criminal group, reports from a rented room that he says he is in Dubai. In seven videos that have been viewed a total of 55m times, he launches bomb allegations that some government officials or their family members are involved in drugs, rape and murder.
Peker did not implicate President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, whom he aptly calls Tayyip Help, or “brother,” but his accusations of corruption and stabbing in the leader’s inner circle have killed the Justice and Development Party (AKP), which came to power two decades ago with the promise of breaking the taking of organized crime over politics.
The mobster began his video assault earlier this month following a raid on his Istanbul home in April in which he said police molested his wife and daughter.
This week, Erdogan broke his silence to launch Peker’s claims as part of a long-running plot by dark foreign forces to undermine his reign. “We made it to Turkey, where they are called pacifiers [godfathers] known by pompous nicknames once swaggered, a place where the law is the only valid method, ”he said in a televised speech.
Peker appears to have taken the AKP on its feet at a time when its approval rating is at a record low on its management of the coronavirus pandemic and its economic repercussions. Elections are scheduled for 2023.
“The transmission of the administration’s dirty laundry can lead to the public losing faith that there is a lot of ideology in the Erdogan camp,” said Soner Cagaptay, director of the Turkey program at the Neighborhood Policy Institute. East Washington.
“Peker’s gangs are talking about self-enrichment, nepotism and links to the mafia. Erdogan is leading Turkey but not bringing it, and the aura of stability is gone. Turkey looks like a house of cards. “
Partly performing arts, partly confessional, the videos show Peker jumping between jokes and jokes. He offers little evidence for his unconfirmed claims – among them that the son of a former prime minister has chosen a new route to trade cocaine from Latin America to Turkey; an AKP lawmaker raped a university student who was later found dead; and that Peker held a former deputy on a monthly salary of $ 10,000.
“I will teach the tyrants that there is no weapon more dangerous than a man who makes death,” Peker tweeted in a teaser for a video, in which he said, “You will be defeated by a tripod and a camera. by phone “.
Much of his anger is directed at Turkey’s interior minister, Suleyman Soylu. Peker claims he helped Soylu against a rival group in the AKP led by Pesu Albayrak, Erdogan’s son-in-law, who resigned as finance minister last year.
He alleged that Soylu provided him with security and gave him a friend so he could evade arrest, but he renounced an agreement that allowed him to return to Turkey after more than a year on the run.
Soylu has appeared on talk shows to deny all allegations against him and denied it, or said he had no knowledge of those directed at others. He filed a complaint against Peker for slander. Erdogan defended Soylu, saying the attack targeted the entire nation.
Peker’s claims offer a rare glimpse behind the political curtain in a country where the media is strictly controlled by the government.
“People are rushing to these videos because the government has created an environment where criticism is prohibited [and] this guy makes a fool of the interior minister, whom everyone else fears, ”said Umit Kivanc, documentary and journalist.
The AKP’s partnership with the Party of the Nationalist Movement (MHP) over the last half decade has encouraged crimes related to the ultranationalists. The MHP leader was photographed with another mafia boss last year after he successfully demanded his release from prison.
Peker was raised in a group of far-right youth affiliated with the MHP and his nationalist credentials resonate with the patriotic Turks. “He can flaunt these things and not necessarily face the blow because he’s an ultra-right lover. If they really went after him, he could alienate the rank and file in the MHP,” said Ryan Gingeras, a professor at the Naval Postgraduate School in California and author of a book on organized crime in Turkey.
“People have come to see politics intertwined with organized crime in Turkey because gangsters like Sedat Peker have not escaped the spotlight,” he added. “He’s essentially a celebrity with a political agenda who happens to have a criminal record.”
Peker cut his teeth as an extortionist and repaired football games, according to Gingeras. His rap story dates back to the 90s, when newspapers reported that he decorated his cell walls with oil paintings and that he had washing machines and Roquefort cheese in prison. He was convicted and acquitted of murder, but was convicted in 2007 of setting up a criminal union and released seven years later.
A year later, he was on the verge of living for the AKP, telling a rally that he would “bathe in the blood” of intellectuals who had signed a petition urging an end to the struggle with Kurdish militants. Months later he was photographed with the president at a wedding and took home awards as an entrepreneur and philanthropist of the year.
Peker has now apologized to intellectuals and complained that politicians exploit nationalism to “turn one over the other.” Speaking in the videos he was also involved in a series of crimes, such as organizing a shocking coup on a Turkish Cypriot journalist who was then murdered by others, “breaking the bones” of a former AKP parliamentarian for insulting the Erdogan’s wife and organized bandits to attack a newspaper at the request of an AKP lawmaker.
While the accusations titled Erdogan’s criticism, they dredged up trauma for the victims. After Peker accused a former interior minister of the unsolved murder of journalist Ugur Mumcu in 1993, his widow Guldal tweeted: “Throw the bricks, let the wall collapse and bury the one that is buried underneath. “.