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Interior minister targets opposition daily for reporting on Turkey’s ‘deep state’

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Turkish Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu has targeted the Cumhuriyet daily, critical of the Justice and Development Party (AKP) government, for reporting on several photos implying a relationship between Turkish politicians and the mafia.

“The Cumhuriyet daily, which slings mud at the most glorious commander in our history of counterterrorism based on the delusions of mafia dirt … [Know that] this Turkey isn’t the same as the old Turkey. You will be held to account before the law,” Soylu tweeted, referring to Gen. Arif Çetin.

Cumhuriyet on Tuesday published several photos in a report on its front page, with one showing Çetin, the current commander of the gendarmerie, and Tolga Ağar, an AKP deputy who is the son of former interior minister and police chief Mehmet Ağar, together.

The father and son made the headlines last week after Turkish mafia leader Sedat Peker claimed in a video released on Youtube that they were implicated in the suspicious death of Kyrgyz national Yeldana Kaharman on March 28, 2019.

A student at Turkey’s Fırat University who also worked as a travel show host for a local TV channel in the eastern province of Elazığ, Kaharman was found dead a day after visiting the house of Tolga Ağar, local media reports said at the time.

Peker alleged that Kaharman was raped by Ağar and then filed a complaint with the gendarmerie against the ruling party lawmaker, a day before she died. The MP’s father took Kaharman out of there in a helicopter, while the gendarmerie chose not to act on her complaint, the mafia boss claimed.

The allegations were denied by both the lawmaker and the gendarmerie.

In the front-page report with the headline “Deep relations,” in reference to the country’s “deep state,” Cumhuriyet also released a photo of Çetin with organized crime boss Selahattin Yılmaz.

The deep state was alleged to be a group of anti-democratic coalitions within the Turkish political system, including high-level figures from the Turkish military, security agencies, judiciary and mafia.

A few years ago, Peker was a staunch supporter of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and a regular guest at his events. His pictures with Erdoğan had caused controversy due to his criminal reputation. Peker had also published video speeches threatening Erdoğan critics and held rallies under permit in predominantly nationalist cities like Trabzon and Rize.

The mob boss left Turkey in early 2020 and settled in Montenegro, following the publication of a report related to arms trafficking to Syria that was allegedly carried out under the guise of humanitarian aid. He later moved to North Macedonia, from where he was deported in January to Kosovo. He is currently living in Dubai.

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