Turkish gangster videos targeting top politicians attract millions of views

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  • The YouTube videos of a former mafioso viewed 56 million times
  • Sedat Peker lays charges against senior politicians
  • Home Secretary denies unsubstantiated allegations against him
  • Some viewers say the claims can harm the government

ISTANBUL, May 27 (Reuters) – When Sedat Peker, a convicted Turkish mafia boss, began posting videos on social media earlier this month making unsubstantiated allegations of corruption, murder and trafficking of drugs against prominent politicians, millions of Turks have listened to Look.

Among them was Can Gumusbas, a digital marketer who followed Peker’s videos on his laptop at home. The 27-year-old believes prosecutors should open an investigation into the allegations.

“If nothing is done, the idea that Turkey is a democratic rule of law will become absurd,” he said.

Alara, a public relations specialist who declined to give her last name, was also glued to her computer screen.

Like many viewers, she questioned the veracity of Peker’s claims, but said one of the reasons for people’s fascination was that the videos bypassed mainstream media in Turkey, much of which is controlled by the ‘State.

“It reflects the times we live in because you have a mob boss who broadcasts live… and he can talk about various things, his own topics without any filters,” Alara, also 27, told Reuters. .

The seven videos Peker has posted so far have been viewed over 56 million times on YouTube.

Some Turks see it as an embarrassment for the government of President Tayyip Erdogan, which has ruled Turkey for nearly two decades and boasts of its success in severing ties between the state and the Mafia.

Opposition parties have called for the resignation of Home Secretary Suleyman Soylu, the main target of Beijing’s rambling monologues, in which he speaks behind a desk in a mixture of street lingo and political rhetoric.

“You can’t deal with this by going on the screens and chatting,” said IYI party leader Meral Aksener.

Turkish Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu speaks at a press conference in Istanbul, Turkey, August 21, 2019. Ahmet Bolat / Pool via REUTERS

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Soylu has dismissed the charges against him, including extending Peker’s police protection after his release from prison and warning of a crackdown on his organization, calling them “disgusting lies” and a plot against the country.

Soylu filed a criminal complaint against Peker and said he was being targeted because of his fight against organized crime.

When asked in a TV interview why millions of people watched the videos, Soylu replied that millions of people also watch child pornography.

Erdogan weighed in on the issue on Wednesday and implicitly backed Soylu, telling parliament the government was prosecuting members of criminal gangs “no matter where in the world they are headed.”

Peker, 49, rose to prominence in the 1990s as a Mafia figure and was sentenced to 14 years in prison in 2007 for crimes including forming and leading a criminal gang. He served several sentences in Turkey and said he is now in Dubai.

Reuters could not verify its current location.

For investigative journalist Gokcer Tahincioglu, Peker’s videos sound like “live reporting from inside the gang” and should be taken seriously.

“There is a confessor who is not anonymous and wants to speak for himself. Why shouldn’t he be heard? He needs to be heard,” he told Reuters.

Galip Dalay, a member of the Robert Bosch Academy in Berlin, said the accusations could make life difficult for Erdogan, who relies on cabinet members like Soylu to bolster the support of nationalist allies in parliament.

Soylu’s withdrawal could damage the president’s political base, Dalay said, while leaving him in office could be seen as a sign of weakness.

“None of Erdogan’s options are easy.”

Additional reporting by Yesim Dikmen and Mert Ozkan; Editing by Jonathan Spicer and Mike Collett-White

Our Standards: Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

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