Fenerbahçe chairman Aziz Yıldırım is heading to prison after his appeal against a match-fixing verdict was rejected by a top court on Thursday.
Yıldırım, whose six-year, three-month sentence in the gripping Turkish football match-fixing case was approved by the Supreme Court of Appeals earlier this year, had appealed to the Supreme Court of Appeals Prosecutor’s Office for a “correction” of the decision. His appeal, however, was rejected, meaning that Yıldırım, arguably the most powerful man in Turkish football, will serve his sentence.
The conviction also means that Yıldırım will no longer be eligible to continue as the president of Fenerbahçe, according to the code for football club administrations.
The decision comes at a time when Fenerbahçe is only three points away from winning its 19th title in the Turkish football championship, with five matches left to play.
Yıldırım also faces at least two years in prison due to Turkey’s execution laws; he already spent one year in jail while under arrest from July 3, 2011.
The court also upheld the sentences of other Fenerbahçe officials, including İlhan Ekşioğlu, Şekip Mosturoğlu, Tamer Yelkovan and Cemil Turan, for their involvement in manipulating several games in the 2010-2011 Turkish championship.
The investigation also involved a number of players and officials from Beşiktaş, Eskişehirspor, Sivasspor, Giresunspor and Diyarbakırspor, and the Supreme Court also upheld the decisions on them.
Yıldırım, who has been defending the idea that the match-fixing case was a plot to dethrone him, was hoping for a retrial after Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s recent remarks against “a state within a state,” following a graft probe that targeted many key names in his government.
One of Erdoğan’s top aides has signaled that many controversial cases in recent Turkish history, including the coup plot cases Ergenekon and Balyoz (Sledgehammer), were actually “conspiracies against the Turkish army,” and talks of a retrial for those cases have been on the agenda since earlier this year.