ISTANBUL, Turkey — Turkey has issued an arrest warrant for its former international soccer star striker Hakan Sukur in the probe over the failed July 15 coup aimed at unseating President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, state media said on Friday.
Sukur is accused by prosecutors in Sakarya province east of Istanbul of being a member of the organization of the US-based preacher Fethullah Gulen who Ankara claims was behind the coup.
His arrest is sought on charges of “membership of an armed terror group,” the state-run Anadolu agency said, referring to what Ankara calls the Fethullah Terror Organization (FETO).
Gulen denies such a group exists and accusations he was the mastermind behind the coup.
The agency added that a similar warrant has also been issued for his father Selmet Sukur.
The report said neither man had been found at their Istanbul and Sakarya residences after the warrant was issued, adding Sukur and his family had left Turkey last year.
He is currently believed to be in the United States.
Sukur was one of the stars of Turkey’s third place performance in the 2002 World Cup and a household name in the soccer-mad country.
A striker whose soccer career stretched from 1987 to 2007, Sukur was by far the most prolific goalscorer in the history of the Turkish national side, finding the net 51 times in 112 appearances.
He was a stalwart player for Istanbul side Galatasaray but also had stints abroad for Inter Milan, Parma and Blackburn Rovers.
His goal after just 11 seconds of play against South Korea in 2002 remains the fastest goal in World Cup history.
After soccer, Sukur went into politics and was elected an MP with Erdogan’s ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) in 2011.
But he resigned in 2013 after a vast corruption probe that targeted Erdogan and his inner circle, siding with the movement of Erdogan’s arch-foe Gulen.
Sukur had voiced objections to the government move to shut down schools run by Gulen’s movement Hizmet, which means service in Turkish. He had in June gone on trial in absentia on charges of insulting Erdogan on social media.