In Brief

Sedat Peker: the mob boss targeting Turkey’s political elite

A flamboyant, Tony Soprano-esque figure, he has been spilling the beans on figures in Turkey’s ruling AKP

Forget soap operas and TV dramas, said David Lepeska in The National (Dubai). “Say hello to Sedat Peker, Turkey’s new viral video sensation.” Peker, a former mob boss, has emerged as an unlikely YouTube star of late, with millions tuning in to his weekly videos.

And no wonder. A flamboyant, Tony Soprano-esque figure who sports a huge medallion, he has been spilling the beans on figures in Turkey’s ruling AKP and their alleged links to the criminal underworld. His main target is Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu, whom Peker says protected him and tipped him off so he could flee to Dubai to avoid prosecution (claims that Soylu denies).

But the allegations go far beyond that, implicating a wide array of officials in crimes including murder, rape, drug trafficking and corruption. The videos have given Turks a rare glimpse at the murky world where politics and crime meet. “Brothers and sisters,” Peker likes to say, “nothing is what it looks like.”

These videos might make for engrossing viewing, said Daily Sabah (Istanbul) – but Peker, who “rose to prominence” in the underworld in the late 1990s, and has served several jail sentences, is hardly a credible source. He fled the country last year when the interior ministry moved against his network; the YouTube tirades began when his associates were targeted in police raids in April. It’s all uncorroborated tittle- tattle, said Elçin Poyrazlar in Cumhuriyet (Istanbul) – but the public don’t seem to care. “In a country where journalists are in prison and free press is caged,” criminals fill the void – using their platforms to settle personal scores.

Sedat Peker

Sedat Peker after his release from jail in 2014

Islam Yakut/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

Turkey’s president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan – whom Peker calls “Brother Tayyip” – is yet to be implicated in the allegations, said Murat Yetkin in the Yetkin Report (Istanbul). Erdogan, who insists he has “eliminated” criminal gangs from Turkish politics, may even benefit from the claims, which offer him an array of scapegoats for his party’s poor poll ratings and Turkey’s dire economic position.

I doubt that, said Kareem Fahim in The Washington Post. This story has reinforced fears of a “resilient bond between Turkey’s underworld and politicians” dating back decades; gangsters have in the past been used to carry out political assassinations. Peker himself was, until recently, a fervent public supporter of the AKP. And there are signs the mob has been strengthening in recent years: Istanbul’s underground economy is said to have grown from $3bn in 2015 to $10bn in 2020. With Peker promising that more videos are still to come, this crisis may be “far from over” for Erdogan.

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