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Arrest warrant out for Turkish football star over coup link

ISTANBUL – Turkey has issued an arrest warrant for its former international football star striker Hakan Sukur as it probes last month’s failed coup aimed at unseating President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, state media said Friday.

Prosecutors in Sakarya province east of Istanbul accuse Hakan of being a member of the organisation of US-based preacher Fethullah Gulen, whom Ankara claims was behind the coup.

His arrest is sought on charges of “membership of an armed terror group”, the state-run Anadolu agency said, referring to what Ankara calls the Fethullah Terror Organisation (Feto).

Gulen denies such a group exists and accusations that he masterminded the coup.

A warrant on identical charges has also been issued for his father, Selmet, the agency said.

Neither man had been found at their residences in Istanbul and Sakarya, the report said, adding that Hakan and his family had left Turkey last year.

Both properties were searched by Sakarya police, Dogan news agency said.

The former striker is believed to be in the United States, and Turkish media said an Interpol Red Notice would be issued for extradition.

Hakan was by far the most prolific goalscorer in the history of the Turkish national side, finding the net 51 times in 112 appearances.

His goal after just 11 seconds of play against South Korea in 2002 remains the fastest goal in World Cup history.

After football, Hakan went into politics and was elected an MP with Erdogan’s ruling Justice and Development Party in 2011.

But he resigned in 2013 after a corruption probe that targeted Erdogan and his inner circle, siding with the movement of Erdogan’s arch-foe Gulen.

Hakan had voiced objections to the government move to shutdown schools run by Gulen’s movement Hizmet, which means “service” in Turkish. He had gone on trial in absentia in June on charges of insulting Erdogan on social media.

He is not the only Turkish sports star caught up in the controversy after the coup bid.

The family of Enes Kanter, one of the most prominent Turkish basketball players in the NBA, disowned him after he openly supported Gulen after the coup.

Kanter, 24, a centre for the NBA outfit Oklahoma City Thunder, responded by saying he would sacrifice himself a thousand times for Gulen. — AFP