Turkey’s Erdogan flies home early after friction over Muhammad Ali funeral

by WorldTribune Staff, June 10, 2016

A dust-up over his role at the funeral of boxing legend Muhammad Ali prompted Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan to leave the proceedings early and fly back to Turkey.

Erdogan and other government representatives left for Turkey on Feb. 9 without participating in the full funeral ceremony in Louisville, Kentucky, according to information from Turkish presidential sources.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan attends the Islamic prayer service for Muhammad Ali at the Kentucky Exposition Center. /AA
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan attends the Islamic prayer service for Muhammad Ali at the Kentucky Exposition Center. /AA

The Turkish president took part in funeral prayers for Ali but was reportedly refused permission to put a piece of cloth from the Kaaba on Ali’s coffin. The Kaaba is a building at the center of Islam’s most sacred mosque, Al-Masjid al-Haram, in Mecca.

Another report said Erdogan and Diyanet head Mehmet Gormez were turned away when they asked to read a piece from the Quran, which led the president to cut his program short.

Funeral organizers had also removed Erdogan from the list of speakers on the grounds that there would not be sufficient time.

Ali, 74, died on June 3.

Meanwhile, a disagreement erupted between U.S. Secret Service officials and Turkish presidential body guards, reportedly because a Secret Service official wanted to stand in the same place as presidential bodyguards as Erdogan was getting into his car.

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