Turkish court orders arrest of previously released defendants affiliated with religious cult leader

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A Turkish court has issued arrest warrants for 61 of 68 defendants who are standing trial along with a religious cult leader on various charges after they were released by a higher court, the TR724 news website reported.

The İstanbul 30th High Criminal Court last year sentenced religious cult leader Adnan Oktar to 1,075 years in prison on 10 counts, including sexual assault, fraud, espionage and extortion.

Of 215 defendants who were being tried along with Oktar, some were acquitted and others were sentenced to various prison terms.

The 1st Criminal Chamber of the İstanbul Regional Court recently reviewed the ruling and reversed it on grounds that the local court’s decision was based on erroneous assessments.

The chamber ruled that 68 defendants should be released considering the length of their pre-trial detention, while the pre-trial detention of 16 defendants including Oktar should be continued.

The chief prosecutor’s office, however, filed an objection to the 1st Criminal Chamber’s decision to release the 68 defendants. The 2nd Criminal Chamber, sitting as an upper court, heard the objection, declining the objection regarding seven defendants and issuing arrest warrants for 61 of the defendants who had been released.

The decision came after pro-government columnist Hilal Kaplan Tuesday wrote an article raising objections to the 1st Criminal Chamber’s decision to release 68 defendants.

“Based on my observations in Ankara, I must note that this scandalous decision has created much unhappiness,” Kaplan wrote.

Oktar and dozens of his followers were first detained in simultaneous nationwide raids in July 2018. Oktar’s assets were seized the same day. The trial began on Sept. 17, 2019.

A controversial TV personality, Oktar used to mix theological discussions on air with visits from attractive young female devotees dubbed as “kittens.”

He is best known for his strong advocacy of creationism, and many of his publications and televised discussions were aimed at refuting the theory of evolution.

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