Flamboyant Turkish mobster and YouTube sensation Sedat Peker apparently reached the limits of his government’s patience on Thursday, as Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu – a frequent target of Peker’s dirt-dishing videos – filed a lawsuit against him, prompting a warrant for his arrest from the Ankara public prosecutor’s office.
Peker exploded onto Turkish social media at the beginning of May with the first in a series of bizarre videos in which he sits at his dining-room table, shuffling books and props that his fans believe are freighted with deep layers of meaning, and lobs allegations of rape, murder, and corruption against high-ranking officials.
Peker’s videos have accumulated millions of views and prompted feverish speculation about what scandalous allegations he might make next. The mobster implicates himself in many of the crimes he discusses, a predilection that has already gotten his brother Attila arrested for his role in the 1996 murder of a Turkish Cypriot journalist. Peker himself is broadcasting from an unknown location outside of Turkey, possibly in the United Arab Emirates.
Peker has thus far refrained from lobbing accusations at Turkey’s strongman President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, but Soylu is one of Erdogan’s most loyal hatchet men, so Erdogan finally broke his curious silence about the Peker revelations on Wednesday to declare his firm support for Soylu.
“We know that disturbances to the atmosphere of peace and trust provided in our country are behind the attacks targeting our Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu. We stand with our interior minister in his fight with criminal and terrorist groups,” Erdogan said in his first serious public criticism of Peker.
“We will expose this game … Turkey will thwart these plots and will bring organized crime bosses to Turkey to face justice,” Erdogan vowed.
The Turkish president promised that Peker would be brought to justice no matter what jurisdiction he currently lives in.
“We have crushed criminal organisations one by one for 19 years. We follow criminal gang members wherever they may flee to in the world,” he said.
Erdogan may have been moved to act against Peker because opposition politicians are beginning to cite his videos as evidence of the Erdogan government’s corruption. A spokeswoman for the opposition People’s Democratic Party (HDP) said on Friday that Peker’s videos illustrate that “gangs and mafias are partners of the government” and “the ruling alliance is involved in crime up to its neck.”
Erdogan ally Devlet Bahceli of the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) struck back on Thursday by accusing the opposition of relying on “crime and terror organizations” to weaken the government and declaring that Turkey “cannot be held hostage by video recordings.”
No sooner had Erdogan himself addressed the Peker situation than his most frenetic of defenders, columnist Ibrahim Karagül of the ardently pro-regime Yeni Safak, unleashed a string of editorials blasting Peker and insisting Erdogan is the greatest foe ever faced by Turkish organized crime.
Naturally, Karagül wondered if Peker might be an agent of the sinister – in the eyes of the Erdogan regime – Fethullah Gülen and the even more sinister Mohammed bin Zayed, the crown prince of Abu Dhabi, where Peker might well be holed up, and the mastermind of all evil in the modern world according to Karagül.
The columnist demanded the exposure of files kept by Gülen’s international Hizmet movement, which the Erdogan government and its supporters refer to as the Fethullah Terrorist Organization (FETO), confident they will contain proof that Peker is a political hitman working for Gülen and “terror baron” Mohammed bin Zayed.
For good measure, Karagül suggested Peker also seeks to “exact revenge for the PKK” – the Kurdish separatist group that Turkey has been fighting for years. In a subsequent editorial, he stitched the United States into the grand conspiracy, howling that Peker’s videos were created with “pre-planned files handed to him” by American, British, and Israeli agents.
“An ordinary mafia leader has become a hitman for U.S. intelligence, for UAE intelligence, for those who are at loggerheads with Turkey,” Karagül fumed.
These histrionics might have some genuine impact on how the rest of the Peker story plays out, as other sources suggest the Turkish government might be developing a connection between Peker and the Gülen organization. Erdogan himself on Wednesday mentioned FETO and the PKK while vowing to crush Peker and “organized crime groups” the same way the Guelenist coup and PKK separatists have been dealt with.
Erdogan’s critics suspect the pushback against Peker is driven by the ruling AKP party’s desire to distract from domestic problems such as a crashing economy. From this perspective, Erdogan might have quietly indulged Peker for most of May simply because he was entertaining and distracting, while an increasingly irritated Soylu took most of the hits from Peker’s videos. Peker is teasing yet another video spilling beans on Soylu will be released this weekend.