Jailed media executive given 1,406 years in match-fixing ‘conspiracy’ trial

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The former chief executive of Turkey’s now-defunct Samanyolu Media Group has been given a jail sentence of 1,406 years on various charges in a trial concerning allegations of a conspiracy in a match-fixing scandal that surfaced in 2011, the state-run Anadolu news agency reported.

Hidayet Karaca, who has been behind bars since December 2014, was among 108 defendants in the trial. He was given the lengthy jail sentence at the last hearing of the trial on Friday on 76 charges of instigating breaches of the confidentiality of communication, 166 charges of instigating wiretapping and the recording of phone conversations, 166 charges of instigating forgery of official documents and 91 charges of instigating slander.

Karaca was accused of involvement in a conspiracy in the match-fixing investigation on behalf of the Gülen movement, accused by the Turkish government of masterminding a failed coup in 2016 and labelled a terrorist organization. The movement strongly denies coup and terrorism charges.

The match-fixing scandal became news in the summer of 2011 when police launched an investigation into 19 football matches suspected of being fixed, and by July 10, 61 people had been arrested, including then-Fenerbahçe Chairman Aziz Yıldırım and Turkish national players.

Former police chief Nazmi Ardıç, who is also jailed, was given a jail sentence of 1,972 years, 10 months in the same trial, while a former police officer was given 161 years, eight months on charges similar to Karaca’s.

While some defendants were acquitted, others were given sentences of various lengths. Eighty-eight defendants remained at the end of the trial since the court had ruled to separate the files of defendants who were at large.

Karaca has been held in the notorious Silivri Prison since December 2014 and was sentenced by an İstanbul court to 31 years, six months’ imprisonment over the scenario of a TV series that was broadcast by Samanyolu TV. Karaca was sentenced on charges of membership in a terrorist organization for his alleged ties to the Gülen movement and for allegedly slandering the al-Qaeda-affiliated radical Islamist group Tahşiyeciler.

In June 2018 the Ankara 4th High Criminal Court handed down an aggravated life sentence to Karaca on charges of attempting to overturn the constitutional order. His sentence was later upheld by the 20th Criminal Chamber of the Ankara Regional Court of Justice in November 2020 as part of a case that was launched against 75 people accused of links to the faith-based movement inspired by Muslim cleric Fethullah Gülen.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has been targeting followers of the Gülen movement, a faith-based group inspired by the Turkish cleric, since the corruption investigations of December 17-25, 2013, which implicated then-Prime Minister Erdoğan, his family members and his inner circle.

Dismissing the investigations as a Gülenist coup and conspiracy against his government, Erdoğan designated the movement as a terrorist organization and began to target its members. He locked up thousands including many prosecutors, judges and police officers involved in the investigation as well as journalists who reported on them.

Erdoğan intensified the crackdown on the movement following the coup attempt on July 15, 2016 that he accused Gülen of masterminding. The crackdown also targeted political opponents of the government, Kurdish activists and human rights defenders, among others. Gülen and the movement strongly deny involvement in the abortive putsch or any terrorist activity.

The Samanyolu Media Group is among the dozens of media organizations that were closed down by the Turkish government in the aftermath of the failed coup due to their links to the Gülen movement.

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