Turkey’s notorious mafia leader claims close state ties

Turkey’s notorious mafia leader claims close state ties
Turkish Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu will file a lawsuit against the allegations made by Peker, and he called on the mafia leader to surrender to Turkish justice. (AFP)
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Updated 14 May 2021

Turkey’s notorious mafia leader claims close state ties

Turkey’s notorious mafia leader claims close state ties
  • Concern over criminalization of politics as opposition calls for parliamentary inquiry

JEDDAH: Turkish government officials entered into a war of words with the country’s well-known mafia leader, Sedat Peker, who released a series of videos about schemes within the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) involving some of its deputies.

The claims pushed opposition politicians to call for the truth behind the claims in order to fight against the criminalization of politics.

Ultranationalist convict Peker alleged that former interior minister, Mehmet Agar, and his son, Tolga Agar, who is currently a deputy for the AKP, were involved in the suspicious death of a 21-year-old Kazakh journalist, Yeldana Kaharman, two years ago, a day after she interviewed Tolga Agar.

Kaharman allegedly committed suicide, but it is claimed that the autopsy report shows otherwise. However, the case was quickly closed by the local prosecutors at the time.

Peker claimed that Agar was “the head of deep state” in Turkey.

Former justice minister of the ruling government and current member of the presidency’s higher advisory board, Cemil Cicek, urged the judiciary to investigate Peker’s claims about the Agar family.

“If even one-thousandth of these claims are true, this is a disaster and very problematic ... Turkey has had enough experience in the past concerning similar issues,” Cicek said on May 12.

“We should learn the necessary lessons. The relevant prosecutor needs to take action and do what is necessary,” Cicek said.

Mehmet Agar claims that the state can examine him whenever required.

The claims pushed opposition parties to try to make the government accountable for its ties with the mafia leader.

Last year, the Turkish government passed a controversial amnesty law that freed up to 90,000 inmates from Turkish prisons for nonpolitical crimes, but excluded dissident journalists and politicians.

The law resulted in the mass release of organized gang leaders, including Alaattin Cakici, a notorious mafia kingpin closely connected to the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP). During the time that Cakici was behind bars, his rival Peker consolidated his grip on the Turkish underworld.

The group deputy of the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP), Ozgur Ozel, said that Turkish Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu was the connection point between the AKP, its ally MHP and the mafia.

Ozel also claimed that the interior minister was closely tied to mafia leader Peker and that the government turned a blind eye to Peker’s previous actions in the northern city of Rize, where he threatened the dissident academics of the country, saying: “I will shower them with their own blood.”

In the latest video he released, Peker confessed that he had played a role in the support shown for Interior Minister Soylu when the minister decided to resign from his post in April 2020. Peker allegedly organized a Twitter campaign to object to Soylu’s resignation.

Since 2019, Peker has lived in Balkan countries where he regularly met Bosniak political leaders. He claimed that he had to leave Turkey because of a personal hostility with the Turkish president’s son-in-law and former finance minister, Berat Albayrak.

After being arrested earlier this year in North Macedonia with a fake ID and passport, he was deported to Kosovo where he had a business residence permit. He is currently believed to live in Dubai.

Peker, with a strong network in Istanbul’s underworld, was previously blamed by some politicians, such as Baris Atay of the Workers’ Party of Turkey, for using gangs to attack dissidents in the streets. Atay was seriously beaten up in a busy street of Istanbul after he was verbally targeted by Soylu.

The opposition now urges the government to form a parliamentary inquiry commission and inform the public about these allegations.

Ayhan Sefer Ustun, former head of the parliamentary Human Rights Commission and founding member of the breakaway Future Party that is led by the country’s former prime minister, Ahmet Davutoglu, said the allegations should spark a serious campaign against “deep state” in Turkey.

“Turkey should launch a countrywide campaign against deep state and a widespread mafia structure that reached out to the inner circles of the state,” he told Arab News.

“A parliamentary commission should be established where each party at the parliament will be represented equally to investigate Peker’s claims,” he said.

“Any connection between the politics and public security should be put under broad daylight,” Ustun added, referring to the 1996 Susurluk scandal in Turkey where close ties between the state and the mafia were revealed after strong popular insistence.

Interior Minister Soylu will file a lawsuit against the allegations made by Peker, and he called on the mafia leader to surrender to Turkish justice.

Peker has been tried several times by Turkish courts over his involvement in criminal gangs.

He was sentenced to 14 years in jail in 2007 for establishing and leading a criminal organization, and for forgery.

His sentence, however, was later reduced to 10 years and he was released from jail in 2014.

The number of Peker’s damaging video releases are expected to reach 12 in total.


Iran nuclear talks aimed at reset, face major challenges

Iran nuclear talks aimed at reset, face major challenges
Updated 10 min 6 sec ago

Iran nuclear talks aimed at reset, face major challenges

Iran nuclear talks aimed at reset, face major challenges
  • Senior diplomats from China, Germany, France, Russia, and Britain planned to meet at a hotel in the Austrian capital
  • The United States is not formally part of meetings that launched in Vienna earlier this year

VIENNA: Talks between Iran and global powers restarted Saturday with the goal of trying to restore a landmark agreement to contain Iranian nuclear development that the Trump administration abandoned in 2018.
Senior diplomats from China, Germany, France, Russia, and Britain planned to meet at a hotel in the Austrian capital.
Top Russian representative Mikhail Ulyanov said in a tweet that the talks would allow the participants to “exchange views on how to arrange further work in order to complete the negotiations successfully and expeditiously.”
The United States is not formally part of meetings that launched in Vienna earlier this year. But the administration of President Joe Biden has signaled willingness to rejoin the deal under terms that would broadly see the United States scale back sanctions and Iran return to abiding by the limits on its nuclear activity contained in the 2015 agreement.
Diplomats say complicating factors include the sequence of the proposed measures, dealing with advances in Iran’s nuclear processing capability since the United States withdrew, and the presidential election in Iran next week.


Egypt, Sudan connecting Khartoum with Cairo-Cape Town rail line

Egypt, Sudan connecting Khartoum with Cairo-Cape Town rail line
Updated 12 min 48 sec ago

Egypt, Sudan connecting Khartoum with Cairo-Cape Town rail line

Egypt, Sudan connecting Khartoum with Cairo-Cape Town rail line
  • El-Wazir said that Egypt has taken “huge steps” to boost connectivity in Africa through infrastructure
  • He said that the Egyptian government is constructing the Cairo-Cape Town railway line to connect Egypt with other African countries

CAIRO: Egypt is working with Sudan to connect the Cairo-Cape Town railway route to the Sudanese capital Khartoum, Kamel El-Wazir, Egypt’s transport minister, has said.
Speaking on Saturday at a forum for heads of African investment agencies in Sharm El-Sheikh, El-Wazir said that Egypt has taken “huge steps” to boost connectivity in Africa through infrastructure.
He said that the Egyptian government is constructing the Cairo-Cape Town railway line to connect Egypt with other African countries.
El-Wazir said that the Ministry of Transport is executing 360-kilometer rail lines inside Egyptian territory, in addition to a six-kilometer line across Nasser Lake to Wadi Halfa in Sudan.
The government is executing another line to connect the monorail stretching from Matrouh governorate with a special link to El-Saloum city, he said.
Egypt is also coordinating with the Libyan government to extend a railway line to the city of Benghazi, he said.
Efforts exerted to develop land transport networks, railways, as well as sea and land ports have improved Egypt’s rank in the Road Quality Index featured in the Ease of Doing Business’ latest report, El-Wazir said.
The report also underlined Egypt’s readiness to transfer its expertise in making smart roads to other African countries.
Dhieu Mathok Diing, South Sudanese minister of investment, said that his government hopes that South Sudan will be connected to Egypt via a railway line in two to three years after the Egypt-Sudan link is completed.
Diing said that Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi’s announcement that he is committed to the African agenda for development, as well as Egypt’s launching of the Cairo-Cape Town railway line and the Investment Promotion conference are decisions that demonstrate Egypt’s keenness to develop African countries.
He said that South Sudan has “high hopes” for the Cairo-Cape Town railway line, adding that the areas which will be included in the project inside South Sudan have been developed.
Diing said: “Cooperation among Africa’s great economic powers like Egypt, South Africa and Nigeria with the rest of African countries makes us believe that we can achieve growth, development and African integration.”


Countdown begins to Egypt-Saudi Arabia power link

Countdown begins to Egypt-Saudi Arabia power link
Updated 31 min 58 sec ago

Countdown begins to Egypt-Saudi Arabia power link

Countdown begins to Egypt-Saudi Arabia power link
  • Egypt and Saudi Arabia signed a cooperation agreement in 2012 to establish the electrical interconnection project
  • The project will be the main axis in the Arab electrical linkage, which aims to create an infrastructure for electricity trade between Arab countries

CAIRO: Egypt’s electrical interconnection project with Saudi Arabia — a scheme that will increase grid capacity to 2,000 megawatts — will be launched shortly, according to Mohammed Shaker, Egyptian minister of electricity.
Speaking on the sidelines of the first forum of heads of African investment agencies in Sharm El-Sheikh on Saturday, Shaker said that tenders for the implementation of the project have been finalized but the winning company has yet to be announced.
Shaker said that a global consultant will undertake studies to adjust the paths of the power lines.
Transmission lines between the two countries will be established under the DC (direct current) system, the latest in Egypt and the Arab region, he said.
Egypt and Saudi Arabia signed a cooperation agreement in 2012 to establish the electrical interconnection project. 
The project will be the main axis in the Arab electrical linkage, which aims to create an infrastructure for electricity trade between Arab countries.
Shaker said that Egypt has become a center for electrical interconnection after dramatically increasing its power production, “thanks to the presidential support for plans.”


Iraq arrests two generals on suspicion of bribery at key port

Iraq arrests two generals on suspicion of bribery at key port
Updated 12 June 2021

Iraq arrests two generals on suspicion of bribery at key port

Iraq arrests two generals on suspicion of bribery at key port
  • In Iraq, every port and border crossing has its corrupt placemen appointed by political parties or armed groups
  • In Umm Qasr, it is mainly pro-Iranian armed groups who dominate through their nominees in the customs department and the security forces, officials say

BAGHDAD: Iraq announced Saturday it has arrested two generals on suspicion of taking bribes to waive customs duties, a practice estimated to cost the state $6.3 billion a year in lost revenues.
Both men worked at the Gulf port of Umm Qasr, a key entry point for imports of foodstuffs and medicines which is reputed to be the most corrupt in Iraq.
The sums allegedly found in their position were tiny given the scale of corruption in Iraq, which is estimated to have cost the country hundreds of billions of dollars since the US-led invasion of 2003.
"$1,000 were found in the office of the general in charge of Umm Qasr North, while the other general had hidden $2,100 in a waste basket in his office," a source in the state anti-corruption body, the Commission for Integrity, told AFP.
"These were bribes intended to facilitate the smooth passage of cargos," the source said.
In Iraq, every port and border crossing has its corrupt placemen appointed by political parties or armed groups, who ensure a steady flow of illicit revenues to their patrons.
In Umm Qasr, it is mainly pro-Iranian armed groups who dominate through their nominees in the customs department and the security forces, officials say.


Algeria votes for new parliament for first time since Bouteflika’s exit

Algeria votes for new parliament for first time since Bouteflika’s exit
Updated 12 June 2021

Algeria votes for new parliament for first time since Bouteflika’s exit

Algeria votes for new parliament for first time since Bouteflika’s exit

ALGIERS: Polling stations opened Saturday in Algeria's first parliamentary election since a popular uprising forced longtime autocratic president Abdelaziz Bouteflika from office in 2019.

The vote is meant to satisfy demands of pro-democracy protesters and turn a new leaf for the troubled, albeit gas-rich, country — but which many activists plan to boycott.
Authorities have tightened the screws on the Hirak protest movement in recent weeks, and police arrested a politician and journalist who are prominent opposition figures in the run-up to the voting.
The early election is supposed to exemplify President Abdelmadjid Tebboune’s “new Algeria,” with an emphasis on young candidates and those outside the political elite. A huge number of candidates — more than 20,000 — are running for the 407-seat legislature, more than half as independents and the rest on party lists.
It’s the first legislative election since former President Abdelaziz Bouteflika was forced from office in 2019 after 20 years in power amid protests over corruption, joblessness and repression.
But the threat of boycott, worries about the coronavirus and general frustration with the political system mean Saturday’s turnout may be low.
Women make up half of candidates for the first time, among efforts to make a fresh start. But women have been largely invisible from the campaign — and in some cases their faces were blurred or concealed in campaign posters, according to newspaper El Watan.
Candidates had just 20 days to campaign, and Algerian media said real debate on major issues of concern, like unemployment, was mostly absent.
“With such a slew of candidates, the calculation of power is simple: to elect a patchwork assembly, without a majority, which will allow the president to create his own parliamentary majority with which he will govern,” said political scientist Rachid Grime.
A new election authority was formed to run the vote, and its chief said results may take up to 10 days to tally given the large number of candidates and the new system.
Many candidates couldn’t afford campaign posters. Independent candidates like Djamel Maafa, a former TV producer, used social networks to spread his message for lack of access to the funds and logistical structure of big parties.
Parties supporting the Hirak movement called for a boycott because they want a more fundamental political transition.
“Elections in Algeria have always proved that they are not the solution. The solution lies in democratic transition, it also lies in a dialogue around a table in order to solve the crisis,” said activist Sofiane Haddadji.