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Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 20 July 2018

Turkey arrests controversial televangelist and 'cult' leader Adnan Oktar

The controversial figure, known for his glamorous female followers known as 'kittens' and 'sex cult', said that his arrest was a 'conspiracy by the British deep state'

Turkish police officers escort televangelist and leader of a sect, Adnan Oktar, as he is detained on fraud charges in Istanbul. Dogan News Agency
Turkish police officers escort televangelist and leader of a sect, Adnan Oktar, as he is detained on fraud charges in Istanbul. Dogan News Agency

Turkish police on Wednesday detained a controversial televangelist who is known internationally for his conservative Muslim values as well as the scantily-clad female followers he refers to as “kittens”.

Adnan Oktar was detained in Istanbul alongside 80 alleged associates on accusations of fraud, bribery and sexual assault. Arrest warrants were issued for 235 people.

Mr Oktar, also known as Harun Yahya, said that his arrest was a “conspiracy by the British deep state,” Turkish daily Hurriyet reported.

He is known for his conspiracy theories, often posting on social media about the supposed secret control of Turkey by the UK and US and his espousal of Islamic creationist views.

In 2011, Mr Oktar began broadcasting on satellite TV channel A9 – which he also owns – with programmes that have drawn international press attention for their unusual nature.

Accompanying him in the studio for his live interviews, lectures and discussions about Islam are a flock of heavily made-up, often surgically enhanced young women, known as his kittens.

Mr Oktar is referred to by the women as “master”, and critics, including the Turkish pro-government press, say that he the leader of a cult.

Under his pseudonym, the divisive figure has written a number of books arguing, among other things, that evolution denies the existence of God and is a Masonic conspiracy.

In the book Holocaust Lies, Mr Oktar argued that, contrary to the historically agreed Nazi hollocaust, it was a typhus plague that led to the death of millions of Jews during the Second World War, although he later denied writing the book.

In 2008, Reuters called him one of the most widely distributed authors in the Muslim world.

Oktar is also known for bringing legal cases against those who criticise him. In 2007, access to the San Francisco-based blogging platform Wordpress was blocked in Turkey due to the alleged defamation of Mr Oktar by bloggers.

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It was previously rumoured that Mr Oktar and President Recep Tayipp Erdogan enjoyed a lucrative and mutually beneficial relationship, both when the president served as mayor of Istanbul in the 1990s and later when he was Prime Minister.

The arrests follow criminal complaints filed by multiple plaintiffs whose ages range from 11 to 40, according to local media.

Mr Oktar has previously spent time in prison for promoting a theocratic revolution, as well as in a mental hospital.

Other charges facing Mr Oktar and his associates include of forming a criminal organisation, sexual abuse of children, blackmailing, false imprisonment, political and military espionage, alienating citizens from mandatory military service and torture.

Their arrests come among an ongoing crackdown and days after Mr Erdogan was sworn in as the head of Turkey’s new presidential system.