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Thousands mourn Erbakan in Istanbul
Crowds fill streets and political leaders join mourners as founder of Turkey's modern Islamist movement is laid to rest.
Last Modified: 01 Mar 2011 15:55 GMT
People surround the coffin of former Turkish prime minister Necmettin Erbakan during his funeral in Istanbul [Reuters]

Turkish political leaders and thousands of mourners gathered on Tuesday in Istanbul for the funeral of Necmettin Erbakan, the former prime minister credited with founding the country's modern Islamist movement.

Huge crowds chanting "Allahu Akbar" crammed into the streets around the Fatih Mosque where Erbakan's coffin rested draped in green cloth adorned in Koranic verses.

Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Abdullah Gul, Turkey's prime minister and president and both proteges of Erbakan, as well as dignitaries from some 60 countries, including Egypt, India, Pakistan and Indonesia, attended funeral prayers in the mosque's courtyard.

A professor of mechanics affectionately known as Hodja, or "teacher", by his followers, Erbakan died from heart failure aged 85 at a hospital in Ankara on Sunday. His body was flown to Istanbul from Ankara earlier on Tuesday.

He served only a year as prime minister before he was forced to step down in 1997 under pressure from the military, accused of contravening Turkey's secular code.

His Welfare Party was subsequently shut down and Erbakan was banned from politics for five years. He stood for parliament again in 2007 general elections as head of his new Felicity Party but failed to win a seat.

But Erbakan is now credited with laying the foundations for the rise of Erdogan's more moderate Justice and Development Party, which swept to power in 2002 and looks set to secure a third term in office in elections later this year, despite periodic run-ins with the country's secular establishment.

"Erbakan was a genius," 17-year-old student Talha Celik told the Reuters news agency outside the funeral. "Though they had their differences, Erdogan followed in his path."

Speaking after his death was announced, Erdogan said: "Erbakan was a scientist who devoted his life to learning. We will remember him with gratitude."

Source:
Agencies
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