The Ankara Prosecutor’s office in Turkey has opened a criminal investigation into the Ankara Bar Association after it filed a complaint against the head of Turkey’s Religious Affairs Directorate for a homophobic speech, Human Rights Watch said today. The case revolves around a Friday sermon about the Covid-19 pandemic on April 24, 2020 by Ali Erbaş, an imam who heads Turkey’s Religious Affairs Directorate, which administers mosques and personnel for Turkey’s Sunni Muslim majority. During the sermon he blamed homosexuality and premarital sex for the spread of HIV. Erbaş urged Muslims “to join the fight to protect people from such evil.” Following criticism of Erbaş by rights groups and bar associations in Ankara, Izmir, and Diyarbakir, several top Turkish officials, including President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, voiced their support for Erbaş’s remarks and condemned the Ankara Bar Association for criticizing Erbaş’s speech. “It is extremely concerning to see some of Turkey’s top government representatives appearing to endorse hateful remarks by the head of the religious affairs directorate,” said Hugh Williamson, Europe and Central Asia director at Human Rights Watch.