The ‘prime minister’ in the north has asked Turkish Cypriot leader Mustafa Akinci to remove the head of the religious affairs Mufti Talip Atalay, without however, giving a reason.
In a letter to Akinci, Hüseyin Özgürgün proposed the removal of the mufti but did not provide justification for his action.
The mufti in the north is appointed or removed through a proposal of the ‘prime minister’. Akinci has the final say on the matter.
Observers have linked the move to possible links with Turkey’s crackdown on the Fethullah Gulen movement.
In July, Atalay who is a Turkish national, was arrested in Turkey reportedly for that reason.
His deputy, Fahrettin Ogdu, said at the time that Atalay had gone to Turkey to visit his father in hospital in Mersin and then went to Diyarbakir where he was arrested in connection with investigations into the Fethullah Gulen movement.
Ogdu, according to daily Kibris, said the reasons behind Atalay’s arrest were a number of accusations against him from the foreign affairs ‘ministry’ in the north and for meetings he had with other religious leaders of the island as part of the interreligious dialogue that runs in parallel with the peace talks at political level.
Ogdu said he doesn’t believe that Atalay is involved in any activities concerning the overthrow of Erdogan. On the contrary, he said, on the night of the coup attempt on July 15 last year, Atalay had called on religious organisations in the north to gather in front of the Turkish Embassy in Nicosia in the north to show their opposition to the act.