Turkey has issued an arrest warrant for Hakan Sukur, a former international football star and parliament member, as part of an investigation into the failed July 15 coup attempt, according to state media.
Sukur was accused on Friday by prosecutors in Sakarya, a province east of Istanbul, of being a member of the organisation of the US-based preacher Fethullah Gulen, accused by Turkey of orchestrating the coup plot.
His arrest is sought on charges of “membership of an armed terror group”, the state-run Anadolu news agency said, referring to what Turkey calls the Fethullahist Terror Organisation.
Gulen denies that such a group exists and accusations that he was the mastermind behind the coup attempt.
Anadolu said a similar warrant had been issued for Selmet Sukur, father of Hakan Sukur.
The report said neither of them had been found at their Istanbul and Sakarya residences after the warrant was issued.
It said 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 football World Cup and a renowned name in the country, where the sport is highly popular.
A striker whose football 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 forward player for the Istanbul team Galatasaray but also had stints abroad for Inter Milan, Parma and Blackburn Rovers.
His goal after only 11 seconds of play against South Korea in 2002 remains the fastest goal in World Cup history.
After football, Sukur went into politics and was elected an MP for President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) in 2011.
However, he resigned in 2013 after a corruption investigation targeted Erdogan and his inner circle, siding with the network of Gulen, who in recent years has become Erdogan’s arch-enemy from once being a close ally.
Sukur had voiced objections to the government’s move to shut down schools run by Gulen’s organisation, Hizmet, which means service in Turkish.
He had gone on trial in absentia in June on charges of insulting Erdogan on social media.