A court in Istanbul has arrested nine imams who are members of the Democratic Islam Congress (DİK) and the Religious Scholars Association (DİAY-DER) reportedly for preaching sermons in Kurdish.
A total of 28 people who are members of the said groups were detained on July 3 and were directed charges based on their organizational activities.
Lawyer Hüseyin Boğatekin said that authorities asked his clients the reason for why they recited prayers in Kurdish.
"The words they used in Kurdish were accepted as 'organizational discourse,'" Boğatekin said, referring to the officials' accusations of the imams being members of the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK).
He also said that the imams were asked why they didn't preach what Turkey's Religious Affairs Directorate (Diyanet) ordered.
İbrahim Yalın, who was kept in detention for seven days before being released on condition of judicial control, told Mesopotamia News Agency that they were shown pictures of themselves praying in mosques as evidence of "illegal activities."
He also said that some of the detainees fell ill under police custody and were hospitalized.
"A lot of us were subjected to accusations because of preaching sermons in Kurdish. If this is a crime, half of Turkey is guilty. This trial should have been held against God and not us. They should have asked God why he created the Kurdish language. They should have sued God," Yalın said.
"God gave us this language. Our mother tongue is Kurdish," he added.
Fahrettin Ülgün, who was also released on condition of judicial control, said that they were asked whether they had any links to the PKK.
Pro-Kurdish Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP) deputy Hüda Kaya slammed the arrests, saying that the imams were arrested "because they refused to become the presidency's imams."