Turkish televangelist gets life term for sex abuse, offenses

ISTANBUL (AP) — A Turkish court on Monday sentenced a controversial Muslim televangelist and cult leader to life in prison, finding him guilty of forming a criminal gang and sexual abuse of minors, among several other offenses.

Adnan Oktar, who was known for holding theological discussions surrounded by glamorous women on his private television channel, was convicted of 10 separate charges, including leading a criminal gang, engaging in political and military espionage, sexual abuse of minors, rape, blackmail and causing torment, the state-run Anadolu Agency reported. He was handed down a total of 1,075 years in prison.

The charges also included aiding the network led by U.S.-based Muslim cleric Fethullah Gulen, whom Turkey accuses of masterminding a failed coup attempt in 2016.

Thirteen of Oktar's associates were also given lengthy sentences on similar charges, Anadolu reported.

The 64-year-old, who has denied the accusations, is expected to appeal the verdict. He has maintained that he was the victim of a plot.

Oktar was arrested in 2018 along with dozens of his followers in police raids on his properties in Istanbul and other cities as part of an investigation into his group. The arrests came after Turkey’s media watchdog imposed fines on Oktar’s TV channel and suspended broadcasts of his shows where he was surrounded by women who had undergone cosmetic surgery and were known as “kittens.”

The televangelist — who uses the pen name Harun Yahya — is also known for a series of books he has authored promoting creationism against Darwin’s theory of evolution.