A local court has released Alparslan Kuytul, leader of the Furkan Foundation — an anti-government religious group — who was detained earlier this week along with dozens of his followers while performing a religious ritual peculiar to the Muslim holy month of Ramadan in a mosque in southeastern Turkey.
An outspoken critic of the policies of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s Justice and Development Party (AKP) government, Kuytul was detained late on May 4 while performing itikaf, which entails isolating in a mosque or at home with the intention of dedicating your time solely to the worship of Allah in the last 10 days of Ramadan.
Police officers raided a mosque in the southeastern province of Adana and detained Kuytul and dozens of others on the grounds that they were violating coronavirus measures, although the group was performing the religious ritual “in line with social distancing rules,” according to a statement by a lawyer representing Kuytul.
The preacher and some of those detained along with him were sent to court after giving a statement to the police. An Adana court on Saturday released them and placed them under judicial supervision.
Upon his release, Kuytul was cheered by hundreds of his followers, local media reports said.
Released pending trial in December 2019 following 22 months of incarceration, Kuytul was acquitted in November 2020 of charges of disseminating propaganda for a terrorist organization.
The religious leader claimed he had been targeted for criticizing a crackdown launched by Erdoğan on the Gülen movement, a faith-based group inspired by Muslim cleric Fethullah Gülen, which is accused by the president of orchestrating a coup attempt in 2016 when rogue soldiers attempted a takeover that saw more than 250 killed.
Gülen and the movement deny any involvement in the abortive putsch, and critics accuse Erdoğan of targeting dissent under the pretext of an anti-coup fight.