Turkish police launched an operation on Wednesday to detain 235 people associated with Muslim author and televangelist Adnan Oktar over accusations including forming a criminal gang, fraud and sexual abuse, Istanbul police headquarters said.
It said in a statement the raids were carried out by its financial crimes section in an operation state-run Anadolu news agency described as having been spread across five provinces and that searches of properties were continuing.
Police launched one raid in the early hours on Oktar’s house at Cengelkoy on the Asian side of Istanbul and detained him and his guards, the Sabah newspaper said.
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In February, Turkey’s television watchdog suspended a television program hosted by Oktar that blended theological discussion and dancing, saying it violated gender equality and women’s rights.
Oktar hosts talk show programs on his television channel, A9, on which he has discussed Islamic values and sometimes danced with young women he calls “kittens” and sang with young men, his “lions.”
In 2006, Oktar wrote the Atlas of Creation under his pen-name Harun Yahya, arguing that Darwin’s theory of evolution is at the root of global terrorism. He has written more than 300 books, translated into 73 languages, his channel says on its website.
Following a visit by Ashkenazi former chief rabbi Meir Lau, other Israeli politcians and clerics have appeared on Oktar's TV program in recent years, including MK Yehuda Glick (Likud), Communications Minister Ayoub Kara (Likud) and rabbis from all the branches of Orthodoxy.
Oktar told Haaretz in 2018 that he has "very good friends in Israel who are truly religious Jews. I love them because they are truly religious."
But in that same report by Haaretz it was noted that the cult leader's "days may be numbered" as all the judges who acquitted Oktar in his 2010 appeal are now themselves in jail.