Former Olympic wrestler Hamza Yerlikaya, now a chief advisor to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan as well as the youth and sports deputy minister, used a forged high school diploma to get into university, according to court documents, the Cumhuriyet daily reported.
Yerlikaya, a former ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) deputy who is also an executive board member of Turkey’s state-run Vakıfbank, stood trial on charges of forgery of documents at the Ankara 7th High Criminal Court. According to the court’s reasoned decision dated 2011, Yerlikaya intentionally used the forged high school diploma based on evidence examined by the court.
According to the Turkish Parliament website, Yerlikaya has a degree from Süleyman Demirel University’s physical education and sports department. He served in parliament between 2007 and 2011. He was appointed as a senior advisor to Erdoğan in 2015.
Yerlikaya’s appointment to the Vakıfbank board as an independent member in June led to jokes and ridicule among Turkey’s social media users who pointed to the wrestler’s lack of knowledge and experience in banking.
The AKP and its leader Erdoğan have been harshly criticized for filling state posts with their cronies and eschewing merit-based appointments.
In the meantime, the People’s Liberation Party, left-wing populist and anti-imperialist political party, filed a criminal complaint against Yerlikaya with the Ankara Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office on charges of forgery of official documents, violation of the Banking Law, wrongful conduct and fraud.
Turkish President Erdoğan is also at the center of a controversy regarding his university degree.There has been an ongoing debate in Turkey since Erdoğan’s 2014 election as president as to his completion or not of university since the Office of the President has provided no satisfactory documentation of his graduation.
Despite several calls for Erdoğan to produce an original copy of his four-year college degree to prove that he is eligible to be president, no evidence has been forthcoming proving the completion of his studies.