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Turkish football faces mass match-fixing trial
Nearly 100 Turkish club managers and players, including first division Fenerbahce boss Aziz Yildirim, were to go on trial here Tuesday following an unprecedented probe into match-fixing allegations.
The investigation, which kicked off nearly nine months ago, led to a wave of arrests in the summer after police became convinced that at least 19 first and second division matches were fixed during the 2010-1011 season.
Some 31 people were detained, of whom 23 are still behind bars. These include a dozen former or current club managers.
Fernerbahce, the Istanbul club which won the 2011 Turkish League championship, has seen no fewer than 13 of its members charged, from its 59-year-old boss Yildirim to Brazilian-born player Gogcek Vederson, along with trainers, therapists and even the team's Turkish-Portuguese interpreter.
Prosecutors are demanding jail terms of 147 years for Yildirim on corruption charges.
One of the games investigated was Fenerbahce's 4-3 victory over Sivasspor, which won it the championship title.
But managers from other clubs will also be in the dock, including those from Besiktas and Trabzonspor.
The probe has rocked Turkish football to the core.
The Turkish football federation has banned Fernerbahce from the 2011-2012 Champions League, and Besiktas has returned the Turkish Cup it won last year.
But the president of the federation, Mehmet Ali Aydinlar, and his two deputies resigned last month after the federation failed to agree on further sanctions for the clubs involved.
The inquiry and arrests have created shock waves among football supporters many of whom said they would demonstrate Tuesday outside the court.
In December, Turkish lawmakers adopted a law designed to water down drastic sentencing guidelines introduced earlier in the year to punish corruption in football.
The new law was meant to cut the maximum sentence for anyone found guilty of match-fixing from 12 to three years, but President Abdullah Gul vetoed the bill.
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