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Exclusive- Ali Yesildag says: “All businessmen in Turkey are Tayyip Erdogan’s associates. They are forced to kick profits back with him, otherwise nothing moves on”.
Ali Yesildag is currently under detention in Komotini prison waiting for the Supreme Court of Greece (Areios Pagos) to consider Turkey’s extradition request.
As he confesses, his life depends on this final ruling. He stresses that in case Greece extradites him to Turkey, he will be sentenced to life imprisonment by the Turkish authorities. He is pretty sure that they will come up with a way to wipe him out, as they are aware of the fact that he has shocking revelations to make on Erdogan’s corruption system.
Ali Yesildag, a 54-year-old businessman, and his two brothers were active in the construction and catering sectors.
While detained in Komotini prison, he confesses to the House of Investigative Journalism that, as a family, they supported Erdogan since his early steps in politics.
Moreover, he says that his brother, Hasan, deliberately committed a crime in order to get into prison and protect the current Turkish president, when he was jailed in Pinarhisar Prison in 1999, while being a mayor of Istanbul.
He admits that during Erdogan’s time as a mayor of Istanbul, his brother won many public works tenders, establishing various enterprises to which the Turkish president was a silent partner.
Many businessmen sought mediation with the Turkish president for public works to end up in their hands, with them and Erdogan receiving kickbacks of hundreds of millions of dollars.
A family dispute revealing Erdogan’s corruption system
In 2014 Ali Yesildag came into conflict with his brothers over the division of their property, as he wanted to exit from the family business. This decision sent him few months later to prison for a crime he claims he never committed.
He sent letters to government officials trying to publicise the issue. Nevertheless, he remained in jail for seven years. In 2020 he was released as part of measures to contain the Covid-19 pandemic and of relevant legislation providing for prison decongestion.
After his release he continued sending letters and this time he addressed the issue to Erdogan and his family, yet without any response.
This is when the whole case attracted widespread media attention and provoked distress not only to Erdogan but also to his family.
Ali Yesildag describes that Turkish justice opens again a file against him as a means to muzzle him. Suddenly, he is informed by his lawyer that according to the Turkish authorities there was a remaining sentence he had not served for crimes he committed 39 years ago, in 1985-86, when he was 15 years old.
It was then when he decided to publicly denounce Erdogan’s corruption scheme.
Just ten days after his revelations -releasing eight videos on YouTube- denouncing Erdogan for being involved in billion-dollars corruption scheme, his political persecution officially starts.
His revelations caused political turmoil in the neighbouring country amidst presidential elections in Turkey.
Although opposition parties called for clarification, there was no investigation at all in the Turkish national assembly conducted with the initiative of the opposition.
As Ali Yesildag explains, Erdogan has opposition leaders in hand and he is at any moment ready to disclose corruption scandals against them.
Within ten days from Ali Yesildag’s revelations, Turkish justice issued an Interpol arrest warrant against him to serve the rest of his sentence which is four years for crimes he allegedly committed when he was a minor.
At the same time, an investigation was also launched into him for membership in a terrorist organization and more specifically the movement of the US-based self-exiled Fethullah Gulen and for insulting the Turkish president.
Ali Yesildag is afraid that his life is at risk and he escaped from Turkey to Greece seeking political asylum.
Ali Yesildag seeks asylum in Greece
In Mid-November Ali Yesildag was spotted in the Greek-Turkish borders, having illegally crossed the river Evros in order to seek asylum before the Greek authorities.
On November 17, the Greek authorities detained him and upon pending Interpol arrest warrant they drove him to Komotini prison where he is still under detention.
Shortly after news broke about Ali Yesildag’s arrest in Greece, his wife and a friend of his, Oguzhan Yildiz, have also been detained.
After being detained for three days and under long interrogation, his wife, Serpil, got released.
In her interview to the House of Investigative Journalism, Serpil reveals that prohibition on leaving the national territory has been imposed to her and that she is under investigation accused of being member of a criminal organisation -criminal proceedings file Nr. 2023/127240- for allegedly assisting Ali to flee the country.
“Police might again invade my house at any time” she confesses, sharing her concerns on the harassment she goes through everyday by the Turkish authorities.
She says that Ali’s friend got arrested at the moment he was about to transfer money through Western Union for the fees of Ali’s lawyer in Greece. The Turkish authorities cancelled the money transfer and Ali’s friend is still under detention accused of membership in criminal organisation.
She furthermore mentions that Yiannis Patzanakidis’name, the lawyer defending Ali, is also in the same case file concerning accusations on membership in criminal organisation.
The Judicial Council of Second Instance of Thrace considered the request of Ali Yesildag’s extradition and on January 10, unanimously decided in favour of his extradition to Turkey, as there was not sufficient grounds to consider that in case he is extradited in Turkey he will be brought before justice for other crimes.
On January 15, Ali Yesildag’s lawyers, Thanassis Kampagiannis and Yiannis Patzanakidis lodged an appeal before the Supreme Court of Greece.
The case of Ali Yesildag’s extradition is examined under a specific political situation, during which the Greek government and the prime minister Mitsotakis seek to bridge the gap and establish a friendship with Turkey. Erdogan’s visit to Athens, on December 7, was the culmination of that plan. To note furthermore that, during the governance of Mitsotakis the rule of law has been severely deteriorated in Greece.
Ali Yesildag’s trusts the way justice is delivered in Greece and he is sure that, after careful examination of all the relevant evidence by the Greek authorities, it will be crystal clear that this is just a political persecution against him.