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Alevi inmate granted meeting with religious official in Ankara

An inmate of the Alevi faith, a secular version of Islam, was permitted to meet with an Alevi religious leader, known as an Alevi Dede, in prison thanks to a ruling which allowed imams to preach in prisons.

The meeting between inmate Miktat Algül, 47, and an AleviDede from the Cem Foundation’s Ankara branch occurred on May 18 and marked a first in Turkey’s history.

The move came after a new protocol between the Directorate of Religious Affairs (Diyanet) and the Justice Ministry, which said on Feb. 11, 2011, that preachers were allowed to work in prisons. Imams were assigned to prisons to teach the Quran to inmates and provide personal counselling in order to help their rehabilitation.

Algül, however, demanded to meet with an Alevi Dede rather than an imam in the Sincan 1 F Type Prison on the ground that he was an Alevi. “A preacher is coming to the prison once a week for Sunni Muslims. A similar practice should be available for the followers of the Alevi faith,” Algül said.

However, Algül was not able to meet an Alevi Dede in his first application to the prison, in which he cited an article in the law on the execution of sentences and security measures.

“The inmate is allowed to be visited by and have contact with his religion’s officials as long as it does not pose a threat to the institution,” said the article.

After the prison rejected his application, Algül applied to the Ankara Bar Association’s Human Rights Monitoring Center on April 29. Kazın Genç, the center’s lawyer, applied to the Justice Ministry on behalf of Algül, demanding to meet both Algül and the prison administration.

As Genç’s application was still in progress, the prison administration allowed Algül to meet with an Alevi Dede on May 18.

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