Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan may be attending the funeral of Muhammad Ali alongside his arch-nemesis, cleric Fethullah Gulen, according to Turkish media
Left-leaning newspaper SoL and nationalist daily Cumhuriyet said that the two are both expected to attend the funeral on 10 June, provoking concern about the possibility of a public spat between the allies-turned-enemies. However, Gulen has yet to officially confirm his attendance.
Both Erdogan and Gulen offered condolences to the family of the former heavyweight boxer and activist, following his death at the age of 74, last Friday.
“I learned with grief the passing of Mr Muhammad Ali, an individual who was dear to hundreds of millions of people around the world for his achievements in sports, strength of conviction, amicable personality and philanthropy,” said Gulen in a statement on Wednesday.
“Through his professional accomplishments as well as his standing up for his beliefs, Muhammad Ali served as a role model and a source of hope for youth living in difficult conditions around the world.”
Erdogan, for his part, tweeted that Ali’s “courage, conviction and determination inspired all of humanity."
Gulen had previously been an ally of Erdogan and had aided his Justice and Development Party in its rise to power in 2002.
However, the two split over a 2013 corruption scandal - in which Erdogan claimed that Gulenists elements inside state institutions had pushed for the arrest of Erdogan’s allies - leading to an arrest warrant being issued for the cleric in December 2014.
Since then, hundreds have been arrested in Turkey over alleged Gulenist links. The Zaman newspaper, previously the country’s best-selling daily, was seized by the government and staff fired en masse after it was accused of involvement in the “Fethullahist terror organisation”.
Last week, the Turkish government officially designated the Gulen movement - also known as the Hizmet movement - a “terrorist” organisation, grouping it in the same category as the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) and Islamic State group.
"We will not let those who divide the nation off the hook in this country," Erdogan told supporters in the city of Izmir last Monday.
"They will be brought to account. Some fled and some are in prison and are currently being tried. This process will continue."
Originally, Erdogan had expected to speak at Ali’s funeral, but the organisers later announced that no foreign leader would be speaking to avoid politicising the event.
Read more: Erdogan and his nemesis Gulen reportedly both invited to Muhammad Ali funeral | Middle East Eye