ISTANBUL — A Turkish court on Monday sentenced a Muslim televangelist who surrounded himself with scantily clad women he called “kittens” to more than 1,000 years in jail for sex crimes.
Adnan Oktar preached creationism and conservative values while women in revealing outfits — many of whom appeared to have had plastic surgery — danced around him to upbeat music in the TV studio.
The bearded 64-year-old was detained in 2018 along with more than 200 other suspects as part of a crackdown on his group by the financial crimes unit of the Istanbul police.
He was sentenced to 1,075 years for crimes including sexual assault, sexual abuse of minors, fraud and attempted political and military espionage, the private NTV broadcaster reported.
The court also sentenced two executives in Oktar’s organization, Tarkan Yavas and Oktar Babuna, to 211 and 186 years, respectively.
The official Anadolu news agency reported that Oktar was additionally found guilty of aiding a group led by US-based Muslim preacher Fethullah Gulen that Turkey blames for staging a failed coup attempt in 2016.
He has denied links to Gulen and has called suggestions that he led a sex cult an “urban myth.”
Turkish police have arrested Adnan Oktar, a truly bizarre Islamist cult leader and creationist who is best known for being perpetually surrounded by his 'kittens'. https://t.co/aMMfsuKhXr pic.twitter.com/zitGhxZ4AS
— Raf Sanchez (@rafsanchez) July 11, 2018
Some 236 defendants faced charges, 78 of whom were held in custody pending trial, Anadolu reported.
Most of the suspects have maintained their innocence since the first court hearing in September 2019.
‘Overflowing of love’
During the trial, which was followed closely by Turkish media for months, the court heard lurid and harrowing details of sex crimes.
Oktar told the presiding judge in December that he had close to 1,000 girlfriends.
“There is an overflowing of love in my heart for women. Love is a human quality. It is a quality of a Muslim,” he said in another hearing in October.
He added on a separate occasion: “I am extraordinarily potent.”
Oktar first came to public attention in the 1990s when he was the leader of a sect that was caught up in multiple sex scandals.
His online A9 television channel began broadcasting in 2011, drawing denunciations from Turkey’s religious leaders.
The channel, which was often fined by Turkey’s media watchdog RTUK, was seized by the state and shut down in the wake of the police crackdown on Oktar’s group.
One of the women at his trial, identified only as CC, told the court that Oktar had repeatedly sexually abused her and other women.
Some of the women he had raped were forced to take contraceptive pills, CC told the court, adding that she herself had joined when she was 17 years old.
Asked about 69,000 contraception pills found in his home by the police, Oktar said they were used to treat skin disorders and menstrual irregularities.
Turkish authorities demolished Oktar’s villa on the Asian side of Istanbul — which he also used for his TV studio — and confiscated all his property in 2018.
Oktar rejects the Darwinian theory of evolution and has written a 770-page book called “The Atlas of Creation” under the pen name, Harun Yahya.
He has also been criticized in the past for publishing books featuring anti-Semitic conspiracy theories and Holocaust denial, but in recent years has renounced them and held events to combat those phenomena in the Muslim world. He has been embraced by some high-profile Israelis.
In a 1986 book he penned called “Judaism and Freemasonry,” he claimed both groups were making use of their power “to erode the spiritual, religious, and moral values of the Turkish people and make them like animals.”
He was later slammed over a 1996 book titled “The Holocaust Lie” published under his pen name, which claimed that “what is presented as Holocaust is the death of some Jews due to the typhus plague during the war and the famine towards the end of the war caused by the defeat of the Germans.”
He later denied penning that book, saying it was written by his friend. In 2006 he published another book affirming the Holocaust and has since espoused that position on many occasions.
Oktar has hosted many Israeli figures on his TV show, including Temple Mount activist and later-MK Yehudah Glick, former Communications Minister Ayoub Kara, and several Orthodox rabbis. He has been lauded for pro-Israel views, including affirming the connection between the Jewish people and Jerusalem and the Land of Israel.
He has supported the rights of Jews and Christians to pray on the contested Temple Mount compound in Jerusalem, the holiest site in Judaism and third-holiest for Muslims, who refer to it as Al-Haram Al-Sharif.