Media outlets have reported that the branch manager of the Soma Mufti Office, identified as H.Ö., collected hundreds of items belonging to mosques in the area and sold them illegally in 2013.
According to a petition recently filed with Parliament regarding the issue, H.Ö. told the imams of the mosques to inform him about valuable objects in the mosques where they were working. H.Ö. reportedly said to the imams: “Look, this carpet is very valuable. If there are any such carpets in your mosques, please inform me about them so that I can come to take them. For instance, this carpet is priced at between TL 2,000 and 3,000. We could also sell other carpets, just like this one. These artifacts should not be wasted at the mosques; we should profit from them.”
The media reports also claim that officials under the authority of H.Ö. went to all the mosques in Soma and collected all items of substantial value without any official justification or issuing a receipt. The imams who handed over the items also face charges but have claimed that the officials working with H.Ö. warned them not to speak about the issue. During their testimonies, the imams reportedly defended themselves by saying that they handed over items from the mosques because they were ordered to do so by the authorities.
H.Ö. came under strong criticism when he purchased a luxury Mercedes car in 2013, the year when the property belonging to the mosques was sold. Following the criticism, H.Ö. sold the Mercedes and bought a Ford instead.
This year, the Religious Affairs Directorate sent an inspector to investigate the claims in the petition. The inspector took the testimonies of all the imams in Soma and put together a file to prove the allegations against H.Ö. After he presented the report, the Religious Affairs Directorate sent another inspector to the district last week. The administrative investigation against H.Ö. is still under way.