Turkish prosecutors have found no reason to investigate the Religious Affairs Directorate (Diyanet) head Ali Erbaş for his comments targeting LGBTI community and HIV-positive individuals during a Friday sermon.
The Ankara Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office said that Erbaş cannot be accused of hate speech as he made these comments in line with the “authority” the law gives him and as part of his duty.
“When the law and regulations are taken into account, Diyanet head’s talking about Islam’s orders and prohibitions and his suggestions and teachings in this regard, cannot be in anyway considered as crimes of ‘hate and discrimination,’ ‘instigating public into hatred and animosity and insulting them,’” the prosecutor’s office said.
The complaint against Erbaş has an “abtract and general” nature, it said.
“The sermon which has been analyzed and watched, talks generally about things permissible and forbidden in Islam, the reasons why these are considered so, … indicates that these orders and prohibitions are for the benefit of all people, and in this respect the sermon also addresses all humanity,” it said.
Erbaş on April 24 claimed homosexuality caused diseases, corrupted people and was condemned in Islamic teaching. He also claimed during his weekly sermon that homosexuality caused HIV.
The Ankara bar association of lawyers accused him of inciting hatred against gay people and also brought a lawsuit against him.
In return, Ankara prosecutors opened a probe into the bar association for “insulting the religious values adopted by a section of society” and Diyanet has made a criminal complaint against the lawyers.
Amnesty International urges Turkish gov’t to take steps to combat rising homophobia
Meanwhile, ahead of the 17 May International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia (IDAHOTB), Amnesty International has called on the Turkish government to take urgent action to counter the increasing number of discriminatory statements and policies by state officials against LGBTI people.
Erbaş’s “homophobic statements were publicly supported by a series of senior government officials, including President [Recep Tayyip] Erdoğan, while those in civil society that condemned the homophobic remarks were censured by the authorities,” the NGO said in its May 13-dated statement.
“The government of Turkey must end its participation, support and encouragement of homophobic statements that stigmatize and discriminate against LGBTI people. Instead, the government must take urgent action to counter stereotypes, eradicate discrimination and foster greater equality,” it said.
Amensty International also said that government officials who are fueling hatred and creating a hostile environment for LGBTI people must be subjected to appropriate disciplinary or other sanctions.
“State authorities must promote equality for all, including LGBTI individuals,” it said.