Football: Turkey ex-goalkeeper Omer Catkic charged for 'terror' link

Omer Catkic takes part in an exhibition match to support the Paris bid for the 2024 Olympics before the Roland Garros 2017 French Tennis Open in Paris on May 27, 2017. PHOTO: AFP

ISTANBUL (AFP) - A Turkish court on Monday (Aug 28) charged former international football goalkeeper Omer Catkic with membership of a terror group, remanding him in jail ahead of trial.

Catkic was detained earlier this month on suspicion of links to the group led by the US-based preacher Fethullah Gulen, blamed for last year's failed coup against President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

The Istanbul court charged Catkic, 42, with "membership of an armed terror group" and ordered him to be kept in detention ahead of trial, a date for which has yet to be set, the Dogan news agency said.

He is accused of downloading and sending messages through the Bylock messaging app which authorities suspect was used by Gulen's supporters to coordinate the July 15, 2016 coup bid, Dogan said.

He is also charged with investing one million dollars into Bank Asya, a bank owned by Gulen supporters that has since been put into state administration.

Turkey accuses Gulen of leading an outlawed entity called the Fethullah Terror Group (FETO) but the preacher denies involvement in the coup plot and insists he leads a purely peaceful organisation called Hizmet (Service).

Goalkeeper Catkic was picked 19 times for Turkey's national team, and played for clubs including Bursaspor and Antalyaspor before retiring in 2012. He has since been working as a TV commentator.

More than 50,000 people are being held under arrest in the wake of the coup, a crackdown that has sparked international alarm.

The measures have touched football beyond Catkic, with the authorities issuing an arrest warrant for former star Hakan Sukur, who played a key role in Turkey's glorious run to third place in the 2002 World Cup. Catkic was also in that squad.

Sukur is now based in the United States.

Authorities last year also arrested former football star Ismail Demiriz, who played for Galatasaray from 1984 to 1993 as well as 27 times for the Turkish national side. He was released in February.

Former international footballer Bekir Irtegun, who played 10 times for Turkey, was detained last month on similar charges but then freed, though he remains barred from leaving the country.

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