ANKARA, Turkey (AP) — Police on Wednesday detained a controversial Islamic televangelist and were seeking hundreds of people linked to him for alleged crimes including forming a criminal gang, fraud, blackmail and sexual abuse.
Istanbul police said warrants were issued against Adnan Oktar and 234 of his followers and that financial crime units were carrying out operations in Istanbul and four other cities to detain them.
Oktar was detained in his villa in Istanbul’s upmarket Cengelkoy district, state-run Anadolu agency reported. Video footage showed Oktar and other suspects being escorted to a hospital for medical checks before being questioned by police. Anadolu said 79 of the suspects had been detained so far.
Police said accusations against Oktar and his group include forming a gang with criminal intent, sexual abuse of minors, sexual assault, kidnapping, blackmail, fraud, money laundering and exploitation of religious sentiments.
In February, Turkey’s media watchdog imposed fines on Oktar’s TV channel and suspended broadcasts of shows where the televangelist holds theological discussions surrounding by glamorous women known as “kittens.”
Oktar — also known by his pen name Harun Yahya — has authored numerous books promoting creationism against Darwin’s theory of evolution as well as conspiracy theories.
Asked why he was being held, Oktar told journalists as he entered the hospital: “It’s a British plot.” He did not explain his comment.
People gathered outside the hospital and were heard booing and mocking him.