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[UPDATE] Under gov’t pressure, Galatasaray expels Hakan Şükür and Arif Erdem

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As a result of pressure from the government to review yesterday’s vote not to expel renowned soccer players Hakan Şükür and Arif Erdem due to links to the Gülen movement, the board of the Galatasaray Sports Club has decided to expel both stars in an extraordinary meeting.

Şükür and Erdem were expelled along with 2,750 members for not paying their subscriptions.

Following the vote on Saturday, the Turkish government called on the club to re-evaluate its decision and accused the sports club of supporting treason.

On Saturday, the Galatasaray general assembly voted on the expulsion of two of its famous former players, Hakan Şükür and Arif Erdem, who have both been victims of a relentless purge particularly after a failed coup in Turkey on July 15. The members of the club refused to expel them with a majority vote, which was slammed by pro-government circles due to its crackdown against real and perceived sympathizers of the Gülen movement.

On Sunday, Deputy Prime Minister Veysi Kaynak did not hesitate to label Hakan Şükür a terrorist due to his support for the movement and targeted the sports club for its refusal to expel him. “If they own these names” said the deputy prime minister, Galatasaray would be hurt, in a veiled threat against the sports club.

Kaynak told CNNTürk that Şükür’s assets have been confiscated by the state  and his father is still on trial due to their “terror links.”

Minister of Youth and Sports Akif Çağatay Kılıç on Saturday called on Galatasaray to “correct” the decision, claiming “treason” on the part of the former players.

The government accuses the Gülen movement of masterminding the coup attempt despite intelligence reports from the EU, Germany and recently the United Kingdom that state no such evidence exists except for involvement of individual officers sympathetic to Gülen.

A former deputy for the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP), Şükür has been subject to a severe crackdown by the government since he resigned from the party following a massive corruption investigation in December 2013.

His father, Selmet Şükür, remained in prison for months following July 15 on charges of coup involvement. After his release due to serious health problems, Şükür’s father is still under house arrest in Sakarya province.

Hakan Şükür played for Turkey 112 times and scored 51 international goals. He joined Galatasaray in 1992 and was part of their UEFA Cup-winning team in 2000. He had spells with Torino (in 1995) and later with Inter Milan, Parma and Blackburn Rovers. Scored fastest-ever World Cup goal, after 11 seconds against South Korea in 2002. Retiring in 2007, he was an AKP deputy for two years from 2011. Şükür went on trial in absentia in June 2016 for insulting President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan on social media. There is currently an arrest warrant for him in Turkey although he is living in exile.

Following Galatasaray’s decision not to expel him despite the pressure from the government, Şükür wrote on Twitter that he was touched.

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