July 11, 2018 / 5:15 AM / 4 months ago

Turkish police arrest TV preacher and followers accused of fraud, sexual abuse

ISTANBUL (Reuters) - Turkish police arrested Islamic television preacher and author Adnan Oktar and more than 160 of his followers in dawn raids across Turkey on Wednesday, saying they were suspected of forming a criminal gang, fraud and sexual abuse.

Officers from the financial crimes section carried out raids in five provinces and were still searching some properties, Istanbul police said in a statement.

Oktar runs his own television channel A9 on which he has hosted talk shows on Islamic values. On occasion he was broadcast dancing with young women he called “kittens” and singing with young men, his “lions”.

In February, Turkey’s television watchdog suspended a television programme hosted by Oktar that blended theological discussion and dancing, saying it violated gender equality and women’s rights.

Hurryiet newspaper said police raided Oktar’s house at Cengelkoy on the Asian side of Istanbul, detaining him and his guards who tried to resist and flee.

Police said they had so far arrested 166 people out of 235 sought suspects.

Accompanied by police, Oktar held up his handcuffed arms as he emerged after a mandatory health check at hospital before being taken to a police station in Istanbul.

State-run Anadolu news agency broadcast footage of a police helicopter hovering over the area where one raid was being conducted and said a police maritime unit was also involved in the operation.

Oktar has in the past accused British intelligence of requesting the Turkish authorities to take action against him.

Oktar, whose began forming groups of followers at the end of the 1970s, has faced a number of trials on charges including forming a criminal gang, but was acquitted.

According to his website, Oktar has written more than 300 books, translated into 73 languages, including one under his pen-name Harun Yahya in which he argues that Darwin’s theory of evolution is at the root of global terrorism.

Reuters tried to contact Oktar’s A9 Channel for comment, but calls to its headquarters went unanswered.

Reporting by Ezgi Erkoyun and Daren Butler; Editing by Ece Toksabay and Raissa Kasolowsky

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