Crime boss Peker likely preaching to the anti-government choir with corruption claims – Ryan Gingeras

Convicted crime boss Sedat Peker‘s claims of corruption at the heart of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s government may affirm the suspicions of many, but are unlikely to galvanise the opposition, according to Ryan Gingeras, author of “Heroin, Organized Crime, and the Making of Modern Turkey”.

Gingeras, a professor of Turkish and Middle Eastern history at the Naval Postgraduate School in the United States, told Ahval’s Turkish Trends podcast that supporters of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) were not necessarily tuning into the exiled mafia leader’s claims.

Since the beginning of last month, Peker has released a series of online videos purporting to lift the lid on links between Erdoğan’s government and organised crime, turning him into an unlikely YouTube star.  

The often hour-long monologues implicate current and former politicians in crimes including corruption, drug trafficking, and murder.

However, Gingeras said popular frustrations with Erdoğan’s government were driven by a variety of factors that the opposition had failed to capitalise on, and Peker’s eyebrow-raising claims were unlikely to change this.

Despite Peker portraying himself as a staunch nationalist standing-up against Turkey’s enemies, Gingeras said it was difficult to ascertain his motives.

The crime boss has been broadcasting from the United Arab Emirates, a fierce regional rival of Turkey, but took to Twitter on Wednesday to say he would soon be leaving, citing a leak of his location.

In early 2020, Peker denied he had fled Turkey to avoid a criminal investigation. He was reportedly detained by North Macedonian police in January but by his own account then travelled to the UAE via Morocco.  

Peker’s frequent relocations may stem from his business connections, which remain “opaque”, Gingeras said.

Despite largely avoiding his claims, pro-government media outlets have sought to paint the crime boss as a stooge for international powers including the United States.

However, Gingeras said these accusations were likely to fall flat against Peker.   

The crime boss’ far-right background and extensive network exemplified “a lot of relationships between parties in Turkey’s political establishment” and make him a difficult challenge for the AKP government, the historian said.  

“The nature of the accusations are so outrageous they defy an easy narrative for the government or government officials to frame any kind of case of argument against them,” he added.

The opinions expressed in this column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Ahval.
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