Turkish President Erdoğan defends top cleric’s use of luxury car
AA PhotoPresident Recep Tayyip Erdoğan defended Turkey’s top cleric Mehmet Görmez over his use of an official car worth 1 million Turkish Liras ($435,000), which he vowed to return after strong criticism from the opposition. Erdoğan said he would not have returned the luxury Mercedes.
“Our Directorate of Religious Affairs [Diyanet] head says he will return the Mercedes [branded official car]. If I had known, I would have said, ‘What are you doing Mehmet Hodja? Why are you returning it?’ Why are you looking at what daily newspapers have written in their headlines,” Erdoğan said on May 11, speaking at an opening ceremony in the Black Sea province of Rize.
Diyanet head Görmez had said on May 5 that he would return the recently purchased official car after the public’s harsh negative reaction, adding that he wanted to constitute an example.
“When the news broke [about the purchase], the vehicle had not even been used by the Diyanet. This vehicle turned into a grave for me after I saw the reports. I have not used this car for even one day,” Görmez told private broadcaster Habertürk in an interview late on May 4.
Although admitting that his office issued the request for a new official car because the previous one was too old, he described news reports about the purchase as a “campaign to discredit the Diyanet.”
The purchase of a Mercedes S500 sedan for Görmez, in addition to 14 Toyota cars for the Diyanet’s general directors and 16 minibuses for general use, drew an angry reaction the public after the news broke.
The Diyanet announced on Dec. 13 that the purchases had been made with state funds, not with citizens’ private donations.