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Turkey’s powerful top cleric called to tone down or resign

Ever since he delivered the first sermon at the opening of Hagia Sophia as a mosque in July 2020 with a sword in hand, Ali Erbas has been on a meteoric rise of visibility.
Head's of Turkeys Religious Affairs Directorate Ali Erbas holds a press conference in Ankara, Turkey on March 15, 2019.

For some pro-secular Turks, the prayer uttered by Ali Erbas, vocal head of the Religious Affairs Directorate, at the beginning of the 2021-22 judicial year sounded like a death prayer for the independent judiciary and Turkey’s secularism.

“The opening of the judiciary in this particular way is unacceptable in a state of law,” the Istanbul Bar Association said in a statement as the images of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Court of Cassation chair Mehmet Akarca in prayer dominated the news and social media. Erdogan and Akarca, who was wearing the judicial gown, were seen with raised hands alongside Erbas at a ceremony marking the opening of a new service building for the court and the start of the judicial year on Sept. 1.

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