Luxury car purchased for Turkey's top cleric

Luxury car purchased for Turkey's top cleric

Nurettin Kurt - ISTANBUL
Luxury car purchased for Turkeys top cleric A luxury vehicle has been purchased to serve as the official car of Turkey's top cleric, Hürriyet has learned.

Mehmet Görmez, the head of the Religious Affairs Directorate (Diyanet), will soon start using the Mercedes S500 sedan, worth 1 million Turkish Liras ($435,000). In addition, 14 Toyota cars were bought for the Diyanet's general directors, as well as 16 minibuses to serve the organization.

The institution announced on Dec. 13 that the purchases had been made with state funds, not through the use of citizens' private donations in the Diyanet Foundation. 

"All vehicles mentioned in the news reports were purchased through tenders conducted by the State Supply Office, with permissions granted by the Law of The Central Government's 2014 Budget and with the knowledge of the Finance Ministry," the Diyanet said in a written statement.

Turkey's top religious office also said the cost of the luxury car given to Görmez was "much lower" than reports suggested, without releasing the actual figure in official documents.

Görmez was featured in international media late last month when he met Pope Francis, during the latter's historic visit to Turkey. It was reported that the Turkish authorities had refused the Pope's request for "a humble car" in Ankara on the grounds of security. Nevertheless, in Istanbul, the pontiff surprised many onlookers when he arrived in a modest vehicle bearing a civilian license plate.