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Turkish deputy and 34 others may face prosecution in state Mafia scandal

January 11, 1997

ANKARA, Turkey (AP) _ A government panel on Friday recommended prosecuting a legislator and 34 others linked to a scandal involving suspected ties between gangsters and government officials.

The dozens who may face trial include former Interior Minister Mehmet Agar and several former police chiefs and officers. The lawmaker, Sedat Bucak, is from a center-right party that is part of Turkey’s governing coalition.

Bucak has denied any wrongdoing and says he is being framed by anti-government factions unhappy about his success in fighting Turkish Kurdish rebels. He has refused interview requests, citing poor health.

The chief prosecutor in Istanbul reportedly was preparing a request to Parliament to lift Bucak’s immunity from prosecution. Deputy Premier Tansu Ciller, head of the party to which Bucak belongs, has indicated she would agree to lift the immunity.

Bucak was the sole survivor of a car accident in November in Siverek, 375 miles southeast of Ankara, that exposed the suspected state-Mafia ties and prompted the government to appoint the investigative panel. A fugitive terrorist, a police chief and a former beauty queen died in the crash.

Agar was forced to resign amid allegations that he had authorized false identity documents and an arms permit for the fugitive terrorist, Abdullah Catli.

Catli had been linked to the Turk who shot Pope John Paul II in 1981. He escaped from a Swiss prison in 1990, where he was serving time for drug smuggling.

Before the scandal, Bucak _ a Turkish Kurd _ was known for his opposition to Kurdish rebels who have fought for autonomy in his hometown of Siverek and elsewhere in southeastern Turkey since 1984.

He controls a pro-government militia of about 2,000 fighters who routed Kurdish guerrillas from the Siverek area several years ago. Media reports have said he gets $1 million monthly from the government for the militia.

Townspeople in Siverek claim the militia is involved in abductions, torture, summary executions, growing poppies for making narcotics, and rackets for controlling local businesses.

``In exchange for his tribe’s fidelity to the state, the government has turned a blind eye to Bucak’s dirty dealings for years,″ said Mahmut Sakar, regional director of the independent Human Rights Association.

Ali Cihanbeyli, a journalist from Urfa, 55 miles west of Siverek, claimed he was kidnapped in 1994 at Bucak’s orders when he was investigating a public contract involving Bucak.

He said he was beaten and questioned in a cellar below Bucak’s gas station until Bucak ordered his release. He said a colleague, Nazim Babaoglu, was beaten to death by Kucak’s men earlier that year.

``Hundreds of others getting in Bucak’s way have been beaten, threatened, tortured _ some killed,″ he told an Associated Press reporter visiting Siverek.

Another local journalist, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said about 200 imported cars _ BMWs or Mercedes Benzes _ were stolen in Urfa and Siverek and that the owners had to pay ransom to get them back.

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