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Anti-gov’t Islamic preacher released from pretrial detention on judicial probation

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The leader of the anti-government Furkan Foundation, a religious group, who was arrested last year in connection with the abduction of a businessman in the southern province of Adana, has been released from pretrial detention on judicial probation, Turkish media outlets reported.

Furkan Foundation chair Alparslan Kuytul was released late Friday after the Adana 8th High Criminal Court ruled for his release at the latest hearing of his trial on Friday.

Kuytul was arrested in May 2022 for involvement in the abduction of businessman Koray Sarısaçlı in September 2021 allegedly by members of the Furkan Foundation, which was closed down by the Turkish government in 2018 in a decree. He is facing charges of the instigation of deprivation of liberty, extortion, bodily harm and torture, which he describes as politically motivated.

The preacher said during his defense statement on Friday that neither he nor his foundation had anything to do with the crimes enumerated in the indictment and that he is being tried due to his anti-government statements.

“We are a religious community. We have nothing to do with a criminal organization. A criminal organization would sell arms and heroin and kill people for money. If we had been a criminal organization, there would have been hundreds of incidents that we were involved in,” Kuytul said in his defense, adding that he was arrested to force him to toe the line and to stop criticizing the government.

The court ruled for the release of another defendant in the trial, while two other suspects would continue to remain in detention. There are a total of 13 defendants in the trial.

Kuytul was welcomed by hundreds of his supporters in Adana.

An outspoken critic of the policies of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s Justice and Development Party (AKP) government, Kuytul and members of his foundation are facing growing pressure from the government for strongly advocating that religion and politics should not mix and criticizing the AKP government for that.

Kuytul was also arrested in 2018 for criticizing Turkey’s military involvement in northern Syria. He publicly opposed the government’s decision to send Turkish soldiers to Afrin, after which he was detained along with 28 other people from the foundation.

They were charged with “abusing their religious power” and “organizing a terrorist organization.” Kuytul was acquitted in 2020, but raids on members’ homes and offices in various cities have repeatedly taken place since then.

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