Fenerbahce boss vows to fight match-fixing verdict
Aziz Yildirim, the head of Turkish football giant Fenerbahce, waves to fans upon his arrival at Sabiha Gokcen Airport in Istanbul on January 21, 2014
Club chairman Aziz Yildirim returned home to Turkey on Tuesday in defiant mood after the Supreme Court of Appeals last week confirmed a prison term of six years and three months against him.
"It is a wrong decision," one of his lawyers told AFP on condition of anonymity, adding that Yildirim did not plan to go to jail any time soon.
"We have filed a complaint with the public prosecutor's office and we will simultaneously apply to the Constitutional Court, which has the right to suspend the execution (of the sentence)."
The lawyer said his defence team would be raising objections to the use of evidence from the alleged tapping of Yildirim's phone in the case against him.
Yildirim flew in to Istanbul late Tuesday, greeted by around 5,000 boisterous flag-waving supporters wearing the navy blue and yellow Fenerbahce colours as well as several club players.
"Fenerbahce is a stronghold and we will not surrender," the 61-year-old Yildirim declared to the cheers of the crowd.
The court last week also upheld the sentences of several other Fenerbahce officials for manipulating matches during the 2010-2011 season, a scandal that rocked the country's domestic football league.
Yildirim was first sentenced to jail in 2012 and fined 1.3 million lira (580,000 dollars) for match-fixing and forming a criminal gang.
He had served about a year behind bars before being freed pending his appeal.
He and all those convicted are also banned from serving as club officials.
Yildirim said at the weekend he would not recognise the "political" ruling and suggested it was linked to a wide-ranging corruption probe engulfing the government of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
In all, 93 people were originally convicted in the case and European football's governing body UEFA barred Fenerbahce from the Champions' League for two seasons as a result of its investigation.
Erdogan, a keen supporter of the century-old team, appeared to back up Yildirim's claims, saying he found the timing of the supreme court ruling "meaningful".
"Why had such a verdict not been delivered so far? Why was such a verdict delivered ahead of elections? You could have done it after March 30," he said on Monday, referring to the date of local polls.
He accused what he described as the "parallel structure within the judiciary" of instigating the ruling -- referring to supporters of an exiled Islamic cleric he charges is trying to topple his government.
The match-fixing probe was launched by Zekeriya Oz, one of the prosecutors involved in the graft investigation targeting key Erdogan allies and who has since been reassigned in a mass purge of police and the judiciary by the government.
Yildirim, a former professional footballer, became head of Fenerbahce in 1998 and was reelected to the post only in November last year despite the scandal.