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Top religious body expels seven imams over links to Gülen movement

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Turkey’s Religious Affairs Directorate, which took disciplinary action against some imams and muezzins in the western province of Denizli last February, has expelled seven of them from the profession on the grounds that they have links to the faith-based Gülen movement.

The directorate has also replaced six religious officials including imams, muezzins as well as a deputy mufti in the same province.

In remarks to news outlets, Denizli Mufti Mehmet Aşık said on Tuesday: “Two inspectors have conducted a disciplinary investigation in Denizli for more than a month. Seven people have been expelled while six others have been replaced as part of the investigation. We don’t know whether a judicial investigation will be carried out about the individuals who have been expelled. The investigation is being carried out by the Religious Affairs Directorate.”

Since a corruption investigation that implicated figures close to the government, as well as government members themselves, came to public attention on Dec. 17, 2013, there is an ongoing government-backed witch-hunt against the Gülen movement.

So far, more than 2,000 individuals including businessmen, academics and even housewives have been detained, hundreds of them have been arrested due to their links to the movement while business organizations have been either shut down or taken over by the government for the same reason.

The graft probe implicated then-Prime Minister and current President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, members of his family and senior Justice and Development Party (AK Party) figures.

Erdoğan accused the Gülen movement of plotting to overthrow his government and said sympathizers of the movement within the police department had fabricated the graft scandal.

Erdoğan said he would carry out a “witch hunt” against anyone with links to the movement.

The Gülen movement strongly rejects the allegations brought against it. There is not a court decision which declares the movement as a terrorist group either.

The Religious Affairs Directorate and its president Professor Mehmet Görmez have been receiving harsh criticism for failing to keep their impartiality and acting on orders from the AK Party government and Erdoğan.

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