Istanbul, Turkey – Interior Minister Muammer Guler announced that 72 fans of three of the countries most prominent football teams (Fenerbahce, Galatasaray and Besiktas) have been arrested and charged with sixteen crimes which include blackmail, extortion, and suspected “organized crime” for making threats to the soccer teams.

Just exactly what would the 72 fans allegedly do? They would use disruptive behavior to get referees to invoke penalties on the respective team. It was only this past week that the team Besiktas was ordered to play four games without fan attendance following an incident where fans took to the field in the teams’ match against Galatasaray.

However, is that really what’s going on in this case? Why would the interior ministry get involved? It is telling that the Besiktas team was one of the so-called targeted teams. Government unrest surged in June and protesters often sported jerseys of their favorite soccer team. Besiktas jerseys became the face of the protests. Nothing will draw the attention of the government quite like mass protests.

At the time of the unrest, the government arrested prominent protesters for engaging in “organized crime”. Sound familiar? In Turkey, the charge of “organized crime” allows special tribunals to preside over the trial with no need to publicly disclose evidence against the accused. Essentially, the accused are put through a secret judicial process. Could it be that there is more to this story than bellicose fans extorting their teams?

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