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Kyrgyz Grand Mufti Resigns Amid Sex Scandal

Rakhmatulla-Hajji Egemberdiev in a 2012 photo
Rakhmatulla-Hajji Egemberdiev in a 2012 photo
BISHKEK -- Kyrgyz Grand Mufti Rakhmatulla-Hajji Egemberdiev has resigned amid a scandal over a sex video.

Egemberdiev told RFE/RL that he had personally submitted his resignation to the Council of Ulemas (Religious Clerics) on January 7.

The council reportedly accepted his departure and named a deputy as a stand-in grand mufti.

A day earlier, protesters in Bishkek demanded Egemberdiev's immediate resignation, saying he is an adulterer.

A video showing Egemberdiev and a young woman having sex circulated on the Internet on New Year's Eve. Egemberdiev has explained the video by saying that the woman in the video is his wife through "nikah," an Islamic marriage ceremony that many men use to take additional wives in countries like Kyrgyzstan, where polygamy is illegal.

The protesters insist Egemberdiev has another woman as his legal wife.

ALSO READ: Sex Scandal Just Latest Misadventure For Kyrgyz Muftis

Talking to RFE/RL, Egemberdiev said the video was made without his knowledge and posted online by people close to the chairman of the government's Commission on Religious Issues, Abdulatif Jumabaev.

"That was an organized act," Egemberdiev said. "My dignity has been hurt by making my private life public. That was an inhumane thing [to do]. I know it was made intentionally. My [nikah] wife is currently in an emergency room in hospital. The attempts to frighten us continue."

Jumabaev told RFE/RL that Egemberdiev's allegations are baseless.

Egemberdiev said he had called on President Almazbek Atambaev to intervene in the case to protect his rights.

"This situation has to be fully investigated. I have referred to law enforcement and asked them to investigate the case," Egemberdiev said. "If they say the rights of this country's citizens are protected and there is a full guarantee that our rights are protected, then they must protect my rights, too."

Kyrgyzstan's Council of Ulemas appointed Egemberdiev's deputy, Maksat Toktomushev, as acting grand mufti.

The new grand mufti will be elected at a Congress of Kyrgyz Muslims on February 8.

Egemberdiev is the sixth mufti replaced in Kyrgyzstan in the past four years amid a variety of scandals. Kyrgyz Islamic leaders elected Egemberdiev to a five-year term as Kyrgyzstan's grand mufti in December 2012 amid tax-evasion allegations.