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Turkey detains religious cult leader, followers on various charges

Turkish police officers escort televangelist and leader of a sect, Adnan Oktar (C) on July 11, 2018, in Istanbul, as he is arrested on fraud charges. Turkish police detained the televangelist on fraud charges on July 11, 2018, notorious for propagating conservative views while surrounded by scantily-clad women he refers to as his "kittens". / AFP PHOTO / DOGAN NEWS AGENCY /

Turkish police teams on Wednesday morning detained Adnan Oktar, a notorious religious cult leader, TV personality and creationist, as well as more than 150 of his followers on various accusations ranging from child abuse to forming a criminal organization.

Police teams raided Oktar’s house in İstanbul’s Çengelköy neighborhood and detained him and his guards in the early hours of Wednesday.

Turkish prosecutors issued detention warrants for 235 of Oktar’s followers in Ankara, Muğla and Antalya as well as İstanbul, where 235 locations were raided, resulting in the detention of 166 people, 106 of whom are women.

The raids were carried out by the İstanbul Police Department’s financial crimes unit.

In the meantime, a Turkish court seized Oktar’s assets.

According to a statement from the İstanbul Security Directorate, the accusations against Oktar and his followers include sexual harassment of minors, sexual assault, establishing an organized crime organization, international espionage, money laundering, the threatening and blackmailing of individuals, political and military espionage, the kidnapping of a child and fraud through the abuse of religious beliefs.

Speaking to the Cumhuriyet daily after the launch of the operation, Oktar said he and his followers supported the Justice and Development Party (AKP) and President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan in the elections held on June 24; hence, he was surprised to see that they were the targets of such an operation.

“We are people who are loyal to their homeland and the nation. At a time when operations should be conducted against the PKK [outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party] and enemies of the homeland and the nation, they are carried out against us. I think neither Mr. Erdoğan nor the interior minister has knowledge about this operation. I am not offended [at them], but I am surprised,” said Oktar.

Oktar is a controversial TV personality whose show mixes theological discussions with visits from attractive young female devotees called “kittens.” The kittens call Oktar “master” and sometimes hold their own discussions about why the theory of evolution is fallacious.

He owns a television channel, A9, on which his controversial show is aired.

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