A Turkish court sentenced Fenerbahce Chairman Aziz Yildirim to more than six years in jail on Monday in a match-fixing trial which has caused turmoil in the domestic league, but released him from custody pending an appeals court ruling.
Yildirim was among many of the 93 defendants, including club executives and players, convicted in a case closely watched by European football’s ruling body UEFA amid speculation about action it could take against those found guilty.
The court sentenced Yildirim to three years and nine months for match fixing and two years and six months for forming an illegal organization, but released him taking into account the year he has already spent in jail on remand.
Hundreds of Fenerbahce fans outside the court in central Istanbul, many dressed in the club’s blue and yellow shirts, initially celebrated on news that Yildirim was to be released but fell quiet as news of his conviction emerged.
Yildirim has denied the allegations against him, arguing that they were specifically designed to undermine the 18-times domestic champions.
The scandal erupted last July when police raids led to the detention of dozens of people including Yildirim, who was subsequently accused of being a gang leader while other charges ranged from match-fixing to paying bribes.
The trial began in February and a verdict was reached at uncharacteristic speed for the normally slow-moving Turkish judicial system.
Fenerbahce were barred from the Champions League last season and there had also been speculation the team could be stripped of their domestic title and relegated to a lower league which did not happen.
In January the Turkish Football Federation (TFF) chairman and his two deputies quit over the TFF’s failure to agree on how to punish clubs caught up in the match-fixing allegations.
The indictment named eight clubs, including Fenerbahce, Besiktas and Trabzonspor and 14 players were among the defendants.
The indictment referred to around a dozen matches, including Fenerbahce’s 4-3 victory over Sivasspor which clinched the league championship on the final day of the season in 2011.