Turkey arrests ex Galatasaray star in coup probe

Istanbul (AFP) – Turkish authorities on Thursday placed under arrest a former prominent footballer from the Istanbul giants Galatasaray on charges of links to the group blamed for the July 15 failed coup.

Ismail Demiriz, who played for Galatasaray from 1984-1993 as well as 27 times for the Turkish national side, was detained in the Istanbul district of Bakirkoy, the Dogan news agency reported.

He was then remanded in custody by a judge in Istanbul ahead of a trial, whose date has yet to be set, the official Anadolu news agency said.

Demiriz is suspected of links to the group of the US-based preacher Fethullah Gulen which Ankara blames for the botched putsch aimed at overthrowing President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and considers a terror organisation. Gulen denies the accusations.

The footballer had been charged with “membership of a terrorist group”, Anadolu said.

Demiriz had already been briefly detained earlier this month along with another former Galatasaray player Ugur Tutuneker.

Both were later released but the CNN-Turk channel said prosecutors had appealed against Demiriz’s release and a new arrest warrant was issued for him.

Over 20,000 people are still believed to be held under arrest in the wake of the coup in a crackdown that has caused international controversy.

The crackdown had also touched sport last month with the authorities issuing an arrest warrant for former star footballer Hakan Sukur who played a key role in Turkey’s glorious run to third place in the 2002 World Cup.

Sukur, also a former a stalwart for Galatasaray, is now based in the United States.

The family of Enes Kanter, one of the most prominent Turkish basketball players in the NBA, disowned him after he openly supported Gulen following the coup.

Galatasaray had said late Wednesday they were expelling from the club’s membership Sukur, Demiriz and another former national player Arif Erdem over their alleged links to the Gulen movement.

Anadolu said all three were being probed under the same investigation into the existence of a “structure” linked to Gulen within Turkish football.

Turkey’s football authorities in early August fired 94 officials, including referees, in the wake of the July 15 coup bid.

Demiriz, 54, was a defender seen as a backbone of the tough Galatasaray side in his playing days.

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