News 12th October 2015

Istanbul court acquits high profile suspects of match-fixing charges

The Istanbul 13th High Criminal Court reportedly issued a unanimous ruling on Friday (9 October), acquitting a number of the high profile suspects among the 35 defendants accused of match-fixing in an ongoing investigation. The exact number acquitted is unclear. According to local news sources, amongst those acquitted include the Chairman of the top-tier football club Fenerbahçe, Aziz Yildirim, who in 2012 was convicted after a match-fixing investigation, but whose sentence was suspended last year pending retrial.

Throughout proceedings, which stem back to 2011, Yildirim had repeatedly claimed that the match-fixing case was a politically motivated plot. In 2013 he sought, unsuccessfully, for the court to drop the case entirely due to allegations of ‘forgery in documents used in the hearings’ and a ‘plot’ against him. According to the Turkish newspaper, The Hurriyet Daily News, Yildrim had repeatedly claimed that the case was hatched by the Gülen movement, who are currently in the midst of a political conflict with Turkey’s governing AKP party. Yildrim, as well as other former suspects, are expected to sue for damages after the ruling of acquittal.

Earlier last week, local news sources reported that an Istanbul prosecutor set the acquittals in motion by submitting a seven-page opinion to the High Criminal Court, demanding the acquittal of Yildrim and a number of others indicted in the case. According to the Associated Press, hundreds of Fenerbahçe fans celebrated the decision outside the courthouse.

Yildrim himself took to Twitter following his acquittal, in which he wrote the words ‘Şike şike ;)).’ ‘Şike’ in Turkish means ‘scam’, referring to political subterfuge. Yildrim tweeted later on the same evening that, ‘This case is not over for us,’ pledging to pursue the case both to the TFF and UEFA.

The Turkish Football Federation (TFF) withdrew Fenerbahçe from the 2011/12 Champions League after a police investigation into match-fixing. In 2012, a Turkish court subsequently sentenced Yildirim to six years and three months in prison on match-fixing charges. Yildirim served one and a half years in prison; in 2013, an Istanbul court released him pending retrial after the special court that had originally tried Yildrim was abolished.

The retrial began in January 2014 where, in a defence statement issued to the court and reported by local media, Yildirim claimed all evidence in the case was forged, denying the charges levelled at him.

In 2013, UEFA banned Fenerbahçe from participating in the next three UEFA club competitions for which it would qualify, including the 2013/14 UEFA Champions League season. The decision was upheld by the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) in 2013, and an appeal by Fenerbahçe was dismissed by the Swiss Federal Supreme Court in 2014.

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