Duvar English

The Adana Bar Association has filed a criminal complaint against Ali Erbaş, the head of Turkey’s Religious Affairs Directorate (Diyanet), over his offensive remarks about the Turkish Republic’s founder Mustafa Kemal Atatürk during a sermon at Istanbul’s iconic Hagia Sophia.

The criminal complaint demanded that Erbaş face charges under the Law 5816, “crimes committed against Atatürk,” as well as under Article 216 of the Turkish Penal Code which provides for a general ban of “publicly inciting people to hatred and animosity.”

Adana Bar Association Head Veli Küçük said that it is “unacceptable” for someone who presides over the Diyanet to “insult the founder of our Republic.”

While leading Friday prayers at Hagia Sophia last week, Erbaş invoked the name and charter of Ottoman Sultan Mehmet II, who led the conquest of Constantinople in 1453

Erbaş said the Ottoman Sultan endowed Hagia Sophia to believers on condition that it should remain a mosque for all time

“Any property that is endowed is inviolable in our belief and burns whoever touches it,” he said.

“The charter of the endower is indispensable and whoever infringes upon it is cursed.”

Erbaş’s commented ignited a debate with several people saying that the sermon was a clear insult to Atatürk who turned the mosque into a museum in 1934.

“[Erbaş’s] Remarks of damning are insulting Mustafa Kemal Atatürk and his memory. It is unacceptable that this person who is presiding over the Diyanet, which was established by Atatürk, and who is a civil servant, is insulting the founder of our Republic. These comments are insulting Gazi Mustafa Kemal Atatürk and also instigating people into hatred and animosity,” Küçük said.