The entanglement between politics and organized crime has rarely been exposed as openly as it is now. What is behind the relationship between the Gray Wolves and the government?
At the latest after the coup attempt in 2016 and the wave of arrests that followed, the prisons in Turkey were overcrowded. The risk of coronavirus infection is particularly high in prisons. The Turkish government drafted an amnesty law last year and allowed the early release of some 90,000 detainees. However, many journalists, members of the opposition, or prisoners with underlying illnesses remained in prison. But others, such as the infamous mafia boss Alatin Tsakitsi, have been free since April 2020.
At the end of October 2021, Kirzat Yilmaz, another great boss of the Turkish underworld, was released. Yilmaz was sentenced to 66 years in prison for, among other things, murder, setting up a criminal organization and inciting the assassination of a mayor. However, following a proposal to retry the trial, he was suddenly released after 17 years in prison.
The two criminals are not only united by their heavy criminal record. Both come from far-right circles, from the “Gray Wolves”. With acts of violence, arson and murder, the group spread terror, especially in the 1970s.
Friendly relations with the head of the MHP
Shortly after his release, Tsakitsi visited the leader of the supranationalist MHP, Devlet Bahceli. Erdogan’s government partner is politically close to the Gray Wolves. After the meeting, the mafia boss targeted the opposition. In several letters he posted on social media, he slandered the president of the main opposition CHP, Kemal Kilitsaroglou, for criticizing his release from prison. Yilmaz also met with MHP leader Bahceli after his release.
The proximity between politics and the underworld reminds many Turks of a dark chapter in Turkish history. As early as the 1990s, it was speculated that there were many connections between high-ranking government officials and the underworld. Political assassinations or disappearances were allegedly due to the machinations of criminal organizations, which operated out of control.
Is the “deep state” returning?
And now there are suspicions that the mafia is helping the government secure power by “paramilitary” means. Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan is increasingly losing popular support. “The current government is trying a new method to save itself,” said Fikri Saglar, a former member of the opposition CHP and an expert on organized crime. “It’s the method of intimidation, especially of the people involved in the electoral process.”
Journalist and mafia expert Tolga Sardan from the T24 news portal believes that the return of the mafia is related to hidden cash flows. He does not think it is realistic that mafia bosses will now rule the streets as a paramilitary force. Tsakici and Yilmaz “are currently organizing to bring under control some of the funds of unknown origin, which are particularly circulating in Istanbul,” Sardan said.
In the 2019 local elections, Erdogan’s ruling AKP party lost important big cities such as Istanbul to the opposition and with it the city’s full coffers. “It is estimated that about ten billion dollars in annual funds are circulating in Istanbul,” says Sardan. Money urgently needed by the Turkish President to power the nepotism system he has built. “These sums of money are an attraction to organized crime,” said the Turkish expert.
Edited by: Maria Rigoutsou
Source: Deutsche Welle
Source From: Capital