Turkish authorities forcibly removed followers of an Islamist figure from 3 mosques in southern Turkey, and reported that their prayer gatherings were a provocation against coronavirus lockdown restrictions.
Footage showed police scuffling with some people in a mosque in the province of Gaziantep on Sunday and forcibly taking them out, while some yelled: “We are reading the Koran.” One Turkish officer could be seen using pepper spray.
Turkey has imposed a full lockdown until mid-May in a bid to cut rates of coronavirus infections which have increased over the past weeks.
Prayer in mosques is not banned under the measures, but authorities in Gaziantep said the groups were trying to confine themselves in the mosques for the final days of Ramadan without prior permission.
The 76 people who entered the 3 mosques had previous terrorism investigations launched against them, the Gaziantep governor’s office said on Monday.
It announced that police had arrested them after they engaged in civil disobedience and started swearing, noting that judicial processes were launched for insulting and threatening behavior and for violating lockdown measures.
“The people carrying out this provocation are followers of (religious leader) Alparslan Kuytul who have been investigated numerous times previously on terrorism charges and their aim is not worship but civil disobedience,” the governor’s office added.