Five football players and a manager have been convicted by an Istanbul court on terror charges, media outlets in Turkey reported on Monday.
The six Turkish men, who are defendants in the trial related to the July 2016 coup attempt, were handed prison terms ranging from 27 months to 75 months by the 32nd Istanbul Heavy Penal Court.
Former footballers Zafer Biryol and Ismail Sengul, and football manager Ersin Gureler, were each sentenced to six years and three months prison sentences to for ” being a member of an armed terrorist organization.’’
The other three former football players, Bekir Irtegun, Ugur Boral, and Omer Catkic, were sentenced to two years and three months behind bars over the same charges.
The last three received reduced sentences as they took advantage of effective remorse law by confessing during the investigations.
Turkish prosecutors had accused the men in the indictment of being in contact with Fethullah Gulen, a U.S.-based Muslim cleric and of using an encrypted cellphone application, ByLock, to communicate with members of Gulen movement.
The movement members are claimed by Turkey’s ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) government to have orchestrated the 2016 coup attempt.
The Gulen followers, who are designated by Ankara as terrorists, strongly deny the accusations.
The Turkish state has detained or arrested some 77,000 people while prosecuting more than 511,000 over suspected links to the movement since the failed coup.
Biryol was the Super Lig’s top scorer in 2004-05 with Konyaspor and played five times for the Turkish national team. Gureler was a defender in Konyaspor when Biryol was there.
Irtegun played more than 250 top-flight matches over 12 years for Gaziantepspor, Fenerbahce and Istanbul Basaksehir as well as making 10 appearances for the national team.
Boral played for Besiktas and Fenerbahce among others as well as playing 10 times for Turkey.
Former goalkeeper Catkic played for a host of top teams in Turkey.
Hakan Sukur, once Turkey’s sporting hero, is also on the wanted list of the Turkish authorities as he is classified as a Gulenist.
Sukur is now living in the United States (US), earning a living by driving an Uber and selling books, he said last week in an interview with German daily Die Welt.
“I have nothing left, Erdogan took everything: my right to liberty, freedom of expression and right to work,” the fugitive footballer told Die Welt, claiming that the regime of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan had confiscated all of his houses, businesses and bank accounts in Turkey.