The press advisor of Sedat Peker, a former crime boss turned exiled whistle-blower, was brought to Istanbul by Interpol officers on Sunday after being arrested in Tirana, Albania, Ahval News reported.
Before being brought to Turkey, Emre Olur, an Albanian citizen, was on Saturday deported to the Albanian capital from Peker’s current place of residence, the United Arab Emirates.
Olur’s lawyers had argued that sending him on to Istanbul would breach his human rights, but their intervention only delayed his arrest in Turkey by one day.
On Sunday, the Turkish police force’s official Twitter account announced Olur’s arrest, saying he had been charged with multiple crimes including membership of a criminal organisation, intimidation and criminal propaganda.
Peker has made waves since he began releasing “whistle-blowing” videos on YouTube in May 2021. The videos featured explosive allegations of criminality by members of the top echelons of Turkey’s ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP), including accusations of murder and drug trafficking.
Olur, known as a close associate and media advisor to Peker, is likely to have played a role in filming and publicising the exiled ex-convict’s carefully timed series of exposés of Turkish government corruption.
Peker served a jail term from 2005 for a slew of charges including establishing and leading a criminal organisation. After his release from prison in 2013, he became a vehement and outspoken supporter of the AKP.
In one notorious incident Peker threatened academics who criticised the ruling party’s resumption of conflict with Kurdish militants, saying the scholars would “drown in their own blood”.
But the mafioso found a huge audience among opposition-leaning Turks after an apparent falling-out with the AKP led to the beginning of last year’s series of monologues airing the party’s dirtiest laundry.
Peker’s choice of the UAE as the base from which to launch his forays reflected the Gulf state’s troubled relations with Ankara, and may have indicated that the Emiratis saw the exile as a weapon in their arsenal.
Now, with Turkey-UAE ties warming up once again, Turkish journalist Erk Acarer said the heat may also be rising for Peker – as evidenced by the arrest of one close associate and the shooting of another outside the former crime boss’s house in Istanbul last week.
And the resumed pressure on Peker is likely to be one part of a strategy by President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan to quash negative publicity ahead of next year’s crucial parliamentary and presidential elections, Acarer said, adding that critical journalists may be targeted next.