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Angry Turk workers urge Pope's arrest during visit
(Reuters, September 19, 2006)

Ankara, Turkey - Employees of the state body that organizes Muslim worship in Turkey asked the authorities on Tuesday to open legal proceedings against Pope Benedict and to arrest him when he visits the country in November.

Muslims worldwide have been angered by remarks the Pope made in a lecture last week that they said portrayed Islam as a religion tainted by violence and irrationality.

Benedict has said he is deeply sorry Muslims have been offended by his use of a medieval quotation on Islam and holy war, but has stopped short of retracting his comments.

Employees of Ankara's Directorate General for Religious Affairs, or Diyanet, presented a petition to the Justice Ministry asking it to launch a probe into the Pope's remarks and to detain him when he arrives, the Anatolian news agency said.

They said the Pontiff had violated Turkish laws upholding freedom of belief and thought by "insulting" Islam and the Prophet Mohammad.

The protesters held banners that read "Either apologize or don't come."

It is not uncommon for individuals or organizations in Turkey to seek legal action against world leaders whose actions they disapprove of. They have never succeeded.

Benedict is due to pay an official visit to Turkey on November 28-30, his first to a Muslim country since he became Pope.

Turkey's Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan has described the Pope's comments on Islam as "ugly" but the government has said it still expects the visit to go ahead on schedule.

The Diyanet controls all imams in Turkey, writes their Friday sermons and sends prayer leaders to Turkish communities abroad.

Ali Bardakoglu, head of the Diyanet, has criticized the Pope's remarks but has also welcomed his subsequent apology.


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