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Turkish health minister attended funeral secretly to avoid criticism over violation of COVID measures

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Turkish Health Minister Fahrettin Koca attended the funeral of the mother of another minister in İstanbul secretly on Sunday to avoid public criticism due to violation of coronavirus measures at the funeral, Turkish media outlets reported.

The funeral of Servet Soylu, the mother of Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu who died on Friday of heart problems, was held with the participation of hundreds of people including top government officials, violating coronavirus measures signed by Soylu. President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan was also in attendance.

Normally, a maximum 30 people are allowed to attend funerals as a measure to stop the spread of the coronavirus in Turkey, which has been seeing an increase in the number of COVID-19 infections over the past weeks.

Minister Koca’s name was not mentioned among the government officials who attended the funeral reported by the state-run Anadolu news agency, İhlas news agency and Demirören news agency.

Koca’s attendance at the funeral, however, was revealed in a tweet by a Grand Unity Party official in İstanbul. In two of the four photos posted by BBP İstanbul provincial chair Mutlu Furtuna on Twitter, Koca is seen at the Eyüp Sultan Cemetery in İstanbul, where coronavirus measures including social distancing were violated.

Journalist and media ombudsman Faruk Bildirici, who tweeted about Koca’s attendance at the funeral, asked why journalists failed to report on his attendance and asked whether Koca would again offer an apology, just as he did last month for attending another funeral where COVID measures were violated.

The ceremony held for Muslim scholar Emin Saraç at İstanbul’s Fatih Mosque, which drew large crowds that failed to observe social distancing, sparked anger on social media last month.

Video footage circulating on social media showed hundreds packed together in a confined space ahead of and during the ritual prayer for Saraç, which was also attended by President Erdoğan.

“I didn’t foresee that social distancing would be disregarded [during the funeral] and that such a [crowded] scene would emerge. But should I have foreseen that? Yes, I should have. I would like to apologize for the appearances created during the funeral,” Koca told reporters back then.

Family members of the people who died during the pandemic and had to be buried without the presence of their loved ones due to the coronavirus restrictions lashed out at Koca and other government officials on social media for failing to observe the coronavirus measures themselves while imposing them on regular citizens.

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