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Saturday, December 3, 2011

93 suspects charged in Turkish match-fixing probe

Turkish prosecutors investigating a match-fixing scandal in Turkey are expected to file indictments on Monday against 93 suspects, including the chairman of champions Fenerbahce.

More than 30 players and officials, including the Fenerbahce chairman, Aziz Yildirim, have been in jail pending trial, since the scandal broke over the summer, forcing the Turkish Football Federation to delay the start of the season by a month.

On Friday, Turkey's president, Abdullah Gul, vetoed legislation approved by parliament that would have reduced jail sentences for match-fixing crimes from a maximum 12 years to three years.

The president based his decision on concern that the public would view the change in the law as being made to benefit certain individuals and that the reduced penalties would not act as a sufficient deterrent.

Under pressure from Uefa, the TFF barred last year's champions Fenerbahce from the Champions League. Runners-up Trabzonspor replaced them.

Among the games under investigation are Fenerbahce's 4-3 victory over Sivasspor, which clinched the title on the last day of the season and the cup final between Besiktas and IBB. Besiktas have returned the trophy pending the outcome of the investigation.

Fenerbahce chairman Aziz Yildirim, who has denied any wrongdoing, could be sentenced to a total of 114 years in prison if convicted on charges of establishing a crime-ring, swindling, and match-fixing, the state-run Anadolu Agency said.

Yildirim and 30 others, including former Giresunspor president Olgun Peker, remain in jail and it was not clear when they will go on trial in connection with the scandal involving 19 allegedly fixed games last season.

A total of 93 people have been charged. Prosecutors said the investigation was focusing on officials of eight clubs, including two other top clubs -- Trabzonspor and Besiktas.

According to Anatolian news agency , the indictment described Peker and Yildirim as the ring leaders in a broad match-fixing scheme.

Prosecutor Fikret Secen said suspects who remain free were barred from attending sports events as spectators. Among them were players from Galatasaray, Fenerbahce, Bursaspor and Eskisehirspor.

Fenerbahce went unbeaten through the second half of the season and beat Trabzonspor to the title on goal difference. Officials with Trabzonspor, which replaced Fenerbahce in the Champions League, also have been implicated, along with officials or players from several other clubs.

Other clubs mentioned in the indictment were Besiktas, Trabzonspor, Istanbul Buyuksehir Belediyesi Spor (IBB), Sivasspor, Manisaspor, Giresunspor and Mersin Idman Yurdu.

Last term's cup final between Besiktas and IBB is another match under investigation. Winners Besiktas have returned the trophy pending the probe's outcome.

One of two deputy presidents of the Turkish Football Federation (TFF ), Goksel Gumusdag, was among those indicted on match-fixing charges.

Istanbul court has 15 days to decide whether the case is strong enough to go to trial.

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