Turkish Parliamentary General Assembly adopted anew a legislation that brings down penalties in cases of match-fixing without any changes despite its public opposiiton.
An İstanbul court on Friday accepted an indictment that accuses 93 suspects, including Turkey's top football officials, of involvement in match-fixing, amidst controversy over a bill seeking to shorten jail terms for match-fixers, which was vetoed by the president last week.
The prosecutor seeks the imprisonment of Fenerbahçe Chairman Aziz Yıldırım for up to 132 years for his involvement in match-fixing-related crimes and other felonies. Yıldırım is 59 years old; a long jail sentence for him would be tantamount to life in prison.
Earlier, President Abdullah Gul said that he had discomfort with the legislation, and he vetoed and returned the law to the Parliament.
The law was adopted early on Saturday by 284 votes against six votes and one abstention.
If the law is approved in Parliament for a second time, the president has no authority to veto it again but can take it to the Constitutional Court for annulment, which the president had indicated earlier he might do.
The bill has been highly controversial, primarily because it was prepared amidst a major match-fixing probe currently under way in Turkey. The investigation concerns allegations that some club officials and footballers rigged games in the Spor Toto Super League (first division) and the Bank Asya League 1 (second division).
The president vetoed the law on the grounds that the sentences spelled out in the new law were not deterrents and that it was wrong to amend the law soon after the beginning of a match-fixing probe.
Discussions surrounding the law, the veto and its aftermath have not been pretty, either. Observers claim the bill has caused rifts inside the AK Party.
The Fenerbahçe chairman faces six charges of fraud, four for match-fixing and three for incentive payment, or bribing the opposing team. Yıldırım is also accused by the prosecutor of setting up a gang for the purposed of unlawful economic profit. The prosecutor has demanded between 59 and 132 years for Yıldırım for the felonies.
Former Giresunspor Chairman Olgun Peker, who is named as the prime suspect in the case by the prosecutor, is also accused of forming an organized criminal gang. A total of 14 players stand accused. Eight teams have been mentioned in connection with match-fixing or incentive payment: Fenerbahçe, Beşiktaş, Mersin İdman Yurdu, Manisaspor, Trabzonspor, Sivasspor, Giresunspor and İstanbul Büyükşehir Belediyespor.
The 401-page indictment was submitted to court a day after President Gül vetoed parliamentary amendments that would have reduced prison terms for match-fixing. Parliament voted for the changes late last month, only eight months after it approved sentences of up to 12 years for anyone convicted of fixing games. The changes led to criticism that they were designed to save Yıldırım, despite the denial of the government.
A statement from Gül's office on Dec. 2, however, said the president vetoed the new reduced term of three years because it gave "the impression of a special arrangement" to save the suspects. It was a rare veto of government-backed legislation by the president.
The first hearing of the trial is scheduled to be held on Feb. 14.
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