Islamic televangelist Adnan Oktar and 236 followers were convicted of blackmail, sexual assault, and other crimes
Istanbul's High Criminal Court sentenced infamous "cult leader" Adnan Oktar to 8,658 years in prison on Wednesday, ending the Islamic televangelist's retrial with one of the longest sentences in history. Oktar was convicted of running a criminal organization, sexual abuse, denial of education rights, torture, abduction, and illegal storage of personal data.
Just 891 years of the total sentence were for crimes Oktar committed himself, while the rest were for crimes committed by his cult disciples. Fourteen of his followers received equally lengthy sentences.
Oktar and his followers were indicted in September on charges of running an armed organization, exploiting religious sentiment, espionage, and defamation of ex-members, while the cult leader alone was accused of systemic sexual abuse of members and collecting private data on famous people for blackmail purposes. When police raided their villa in 2018, they found a crime ring operating under the guise of an eccentric Islamic creationist cult. His TV channel was shut down.
The 66-year-old starred in his own television programs, preaching creationism and conservative values while surrounded by scantily-clad women he called "kittens." He also wrote books under the pseudonym Harun Yahya, publishing in multiple languages and even making it onto the bookshelf of European Central Bank head Christine Lagarde.
An appeals court overturned last year's verdict, in which Oktar was sentenced to 1,075 years for charges including political and military espionage, leading a criminal gang, sexual abuse of minors, rape, blackmail, causing torment, and aiding and abetting the network of Fethullah Gulen, the exiled Muslim scholar and arch-nemesis of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. The court cited legal shortcomings and ordered a retrial which began early this year.
Oktar has claimed all along the case was a set-up and denied all wrongdoing.