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Football Legend Hakan Şükür Linked To Turkey Coup, Arrest Warrant Issued

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Turkey has issued an arrest warrant for the former footballer Hakan Şükür over last month’s failed coup, and said it had detected progress in persuading the US to extradite its alleged mastermind.

Turkey has blamed the coup on the US-based Islamic preacher Fethullah Gülen, whom it accuses of running an armed terror group. Gülen denies such a group exists and the accusations that he masterminded the putsch.

Prosecutors in Sakarya province, east of Istanbul, have charged Şükür with membership of an armed terror group, the state-run Anadolu agency said, referring to what Ankara calls the Fethullah Terror Organisation.

Anadolu said a warrant on identical charges has also been issued for Şükür’s father, Selmet, and an order had been issued to seize their assets in Turkey.

Hakan Şükür and his family left Turkey last year, but the private NTV television said his father had been detained on Friday in Adapazari, the main town in Sakarya province.

Hakan Şükür is believed to be in the US, and Turkish media said an Interpol red notice would be requested for extradition.

Turkey’s foreign minister, Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu, said on Friday that Ankara had started to receive “some positive signals” from Washington over Gülen’s extradition. He said further documents relating to the case for his deportation were being drawn up.

Çavuşoğlu also said 32 Turkish diplomats were still at large having being recalled by Ankara following the coup attempt, and confirmed that a Turkish rear admiral had gone missing in the US in July.

Şükür was one of the stars of Turkey’s third-place performance in the 2002 World Cup and is a household name in the country. He scored a record 51 times in 112 appearances for the Turkish national side, and was a stalwart for the Istanbul club Galatasaray. He also had stints abroad for Inter Milan, Parma and Blackburn Rovers.

After football, Şükür went into politics and was elected an MP with the ruling Justice and Development party in 2011. He resigned in 2013 after a major corruption investigation that targeted the then prime minister, now president, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, and his inner circle.

Şükür had voiced objections to a government move to shut down schools run by Gülen’s movement. He went on trial in absentia in June on charges of insulting Erdoğan on social media. Şükür said he had not intended to target the president, but prosecutors said the tweets were clearly related to Erdoğan.

He is not the only Turkish sports star caught up in the controversy after the coup attempt. The family of Enes Kanter, one of the country’s most prominent basketball players in the NBA, disowned him after he openly supported Gülen following the coup.

Turkey has repeatedly pressed Washington to extradite Gülen and has expressed exasperation at what it sees as the slow US response to its requests. Erdoğan has vowed to eradicate what he calls the “virus” of Gülen, and authorities have embarked on a relentless crackdown that has caused concern abroad.

According to Turkish officials, more than 35,000 people have been detained since the coup attempt, which left 240 dead excluding the plotters. Almost 11,600 of the suspects have since been released, but the rest are in jail and face trial or custody hearings.

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