When Ayhan Bora Kaplan, a mafia boss was arrested on 7 September 2023, the Turkish public immediately realized that it was a preview of something bigger. Known for his alleged close ties to former Turkish Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu, Kaplan’s arrest has exposed a deep-rooted web of corruption, collusion, and power abuse across Turkey’s judiciary, law enforcement and political circles.
Ascent of Mobster Kaplan
Kaplan’s ascent in the criminal underworld began during the 2016 coup attempt when he and his gang took on the streets with automatic rifles and assumed the protection of Süleyman Soylu.
This alliance proved to be fruitful for Kaplan, as Soylu’s subsequent appointment as Interior Minister 45 days later provided him with significant influence. With this newfound power, Kaplan allegedly dominated the drug market in Ankara, employed torture as a means of intimidation, and took control of nightclubs through extortion and threats.
The Arrest of Kaplan and His Revelations
However, as the political landscape shifted, Kaplan’s fortunes took a drastic turn. Following Soylu’s replacement as Interior Minister, Kaplan was apprehended at Ankara’s Esenboga airport while attempting to flee the country. He now faces charges of torture and leading an armed organized crime group. The timing of Kaplan’s arrest coincided with significant changes within the police force following Soylu’s (August 2016 – June 2023) removal from office.
The Ankara Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office issued a statement about the arrests and detentions as part of the investigation into the mafia boss, also informing the public that ‘efforts are being made to prove the alleged commission of other crimes by the criminal organization’.
Mobster’s Allegation about Chief Public Prosecutor Kocaman
The following revelations show that Kaplan would not remain silent. According to several media reports, Kaplan admitted that he bought a luxury car and a villa for then-Ankara Chief Public Prosecutor Yuksel Kocaman (2017-2020) in exchange for dropping investigations against him.
Speaking to Halk TV reporter Seyhan Avsar, Yuksel Kocaman, who is currently a member of Turkey’s Supreme Court of Appeals, admitted that he met with mafia figure Kaplan and that Kaplan asked for his help, that investigations against Kaplan were dropped, but Kocaman claimed that the decisions were based on evidence and denied any wrongdoing.
Who is Chief Prosecutor Kocaman?
Yuksel Kocaman was involved in several political trials and scandals during his term as Ankara’s Chief Public Prosecutor. He orchestrated an investigation targeting more than a hundred Kurdish politicians and got the Kurdish politician Selahattin Demirtas rearrested to prevent his release after the European Court of Human Rights ordered so. He held a wedding ceremony by violating COVID-19 measures, and made for Erdogan’s palace before going to his honeymoon. He then flew to his luxurious honeymoon hotel with a helicopter.
Mobster’s Allegation about Senior Police Chief Arslan
Another startling disclosure came to light when Kaplan alleged that Alp Arslan, the deputy director of the Ankara police, who oversaw the anti-terror and organized crime units infamous for torture, demanded a $250,000 bribe in exchange for not inspecting Kaplan’s nightclubs. Kaplan claimed that this meeting took place in the presence of a lawyer named N.K.
Crooked Lawyer N.K.
N.K. is no stranger to controversy. With close ties to the Turkish Nationalist Movement Party and a history of whitewashing cases of enforced disappearances and torture, her involvement raises many eyebrows.
Her most infamous case revolves around Özgür Kaya, Erkan Irmak, Yasin Ugan, and Salim Zeybek, who disappeared after having detained by the police, went missing for over five months, and then mysteriously reappeared in police custody in July 2019. Lawyers assigned by their families and representatives of the Ankara Bar Association were denied access to these men. More suspiciously, the Ankara police, without any legal authority, got lawyer N.K. to represent these four names. Then, lawyer N.K. acted to protect the police rather than her clients and whitewashed the misconduct of the Ankara police, including torture and complicity in the enforced disappearance of these four men.
With new revelations we learn that the very same lawyer (N.K.) accompanied police chief Alp Arslan while he was asking for a bribe from mobster Kaplan.
It is elimination of mobsters affiliated with purged elites to give room to lackeys of new elites
The detention of Kaplan and his gang however, does not restore the battered image of the law enforcement; it does not signal any return to normalcy. As the judicial branch was already subdued and law enforcement reduced to a political weapon to mete out punishment to government’s enemies, the occasional crackdown on real criminals serves as a cover to conceal the arbitrary nature of the investigations. With the downfall of the former interior minister, his goons and henchmen in the underground world now feel the heat around the corner.
Similar to the well-established notion of a mafia state in Russia, the Erdogan government dispenses the service of its former clients and disposable mobsters after it is done with them. While Kaplan was nabbed and placed in prison, other notorious mob bosses, like Alaattin Cakici, are enjoying the political protection of especially that of MHP Chairman Devlet Bahceli, Erdogan’s nationalist ally.
In this respect, the Kaplan arrest was not a restoration of the country’s commitment to combat organized crime in true fashion; it is rather an indication of an elimination of mobsters affiliated with purged elites to give room to lackeys of new elites. Yet it shows us the extent of rot in the Turkish judiciary and law enforcement.
Categories: Turkey Human Rights Blog