Former national footballers sentenced to prison over Gülen links

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Turkish midfielder Serkan Balci, goalkeeper Ömer Çatkınç and midfielder Ibrahim Toraman (fromLtoR) jubilate after winning against colombia the soccer Confederations Cup match for the 3rd place 28 June 2003, at the Geoffroy Guichard Stadium in Saint-Etienne. AFP PHOTO PHILIPPE MERLE / AFP PHOTO / PHILIPPE MERLE

A high criminal court in İstanbul has sentenced three former national footballers to 25 months in prison each on terrorism charges due to their alleged links to the Gülen movement, accused by the Turkish government of masterminding a failed coup in July 2016, according to Turkish media reports.

Former national footballers Bekir İrtegün, Uğur Boral and Ömer Çatkıç were sentenced at the latest hearing of their trial at the İstanbul 32th High Criminal Court on Monday. The three footballers benefited from the effective remorse law, hence were given lower sentences than the other defendants in the trial.

Former football coach İsmail Şengül, former footballer Zafer Biryol and former football manager Ersin Güreler, who were co-defendants, were given six year, three month sentences on charges of membership in a terrorist organization.

The Turkish government accuses the Gülen movement of masterminding the failed coup on July 15, 2016 and labels it a “terrorist organization,” although the movement strongly denies involvement in the coup attempt or any terrorist activity.

Following the coup attempt, the Turkish government launched a massive crackdown on followers of the movement under the pretext of an anti-coup fight as a result of which more than 130,000 people were removed from state jobs while in excess of 30,000 others are still in jail and some 600,000 people have been investigated on allegations of terrorism.

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