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ANKARA, Turkey (AP) -- Turkey's top religious official has suggested that the German authorities' raids on the apartments of four Islamic clerics are political moves fueled by "Islamophobia" ahead of elections in the country.

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The Islamic clerics whose homes were raided on Wednesday are suspected of spying on opponents of the Turkish government and are accused of hiding behind religion to conduct espionage on behalf of Ankara.

Mehmet Gormez, the head of Turkey's religious affairs directorate, on Friday rejected accusations that the clerics were engaged in spying but acknowledged they had "exceeded their powers."

He said Ankara had called the clerics back to Turkey days before the raids in order not to harm relations with Germany.

Gormez told journalists: "It is unacceptable that in the election (period) there is a race for Islamophobia-based hatred."

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