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Sedat Peker: Turkey officially requests mobster’s extradition from the UAE

UAE yet to respond after Ankara filed extradition request last month
A photograph taken on 26 May 2021 in Istanbul of a mobile phone shows Sedat Peker speaking on his YouTube channel (AFP)
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Ankara

The Turkish government has officially requested the extradition of Sedat Peker as the Dubai-based mobster's allegations on YouTube continue to stir up controversy and embarrassment in Turkey.

Two people familiar with the issue told Middle East Eye that Turkish officials requested the extradition of Peker, a former government supporter-turned-foe, from the United Arab Emirates last month,

Peker has captivated tens of millions of people in Turkey in recent weeks by broadcasting on YouTube a slew of corruption allegations against top officials - including Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu and businessmen close to the government.

'They [UAE officials] told me that I was a guest in their country since there was no Interpol decision on me'

- Sedat Peker

Turkish courts earlier this year issued two separate arrest orders against Peker on charges of extortion and organised crime.

“Based on these two arrest warrants, Turkey two week ago filed an extradition request to the UAE authorities,” one person said, speaking anonymously due to the sensitivity of the issue.

A second person said the UAE was yet to respond to the demand. There is currently no extradition treaty between Turkey and the UAE. 

Turkey's interior ministry, in a separate application, contacted the UAE Interpol National Central Bureau to demand Peker’s arrest last month, a third person familiar with the issue said.

“However UAE Interpol asked for an international arrest order from Interpol," they said.

Soylu earlier this month said that Interpol had been suppressing Turkish demands for a red notice, claiming that the Turkish government had political motivations for the arrest request.

Peker, in a series of tweets on Sunday, said that Emirati officials had taken him for questioning from his residence the same day.

“They told me that I was a guest in their country since there was no Interpol decision on me,” he said.

“They told me that there have been many threats to my life.”

Peker said that he was home after the questioning, in which the Emirati officials told him that he was free to remain or leave the country.

UAE relations with the Turkish government have been particularly tense, with Ankara accusing Emirati leaders of backing a coup attempt in 2016. Turkey also blamed an Emirati Mirage jet for an attack against the Turkish air defence systems in Libya last year. 

However, since Joe Biden was elected US president, both countries have had a change of heart in their regional policies.

There has been a series of engagements between the two countries that signalled a rapprochement was underway. 

Calls for investigation

The public's interest in what Peker says stems from his connections. Even though the gangster was arrested in the early 2000s for being an organised crime leader, he later became a quasi-celebrity with ties to pop stars, politicians and journalists.

Adding to the interest are the huge rallies Peker held in support of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP), attended by thousands of his supporters. There he threatened the perceived enemies of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, including academics who petitioned the government against conducting military operations in Turkey's mostly Kurdish southeast.

Peker was even pictured with Erdogan at a wedding a few years ago.

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He so far hs shown utmost respect to the president, excluding him from his allegations and only blaming others. There are multiple arrest orders against Peker.

Senior AKP officials, including Erdogan, initially have been mute about Peker’s allegations, while an unnamed government official confirmed parts of Peker’s claims against Soylu in a BBC Turkish report last month.

Many within the AKP consider Soylu, a fellow party member, to be closer to the government-allied Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) and its leader Devlet Bahceli due to his fiery nationalist rhetoric and the cadres he worked with at the ministry.

Bahceli earlier this month strongly defended Soylu against what he calls a regional conspiracy, after which Erdogan followed suit.

Yet another senior Turkish official, speaking to Bloomberg after Erdogan’s speech earlier this month, continued the criticism.

The official said that much of the AKP governing elite was uncomfortable with the current AKP-MHP coalition.

“The majority wants a thorough investigation even though it would hurt ties with the MHP," he said.