An indictment recently prepared by Istanbul prosecutors demands a prison sentence of 870 years for Adnan Oktar, a Turkish Islamic cult leader, and televangelist, the Diken news portal reported on Friday.
Oktar, who operates his own TV channel A9, is known for giving televised religious sermons surrounded by young men and women he refers to as his “lions” and “kittens.”
The investigation into Oktar and his alleged criminal organization was launched in July 2018, when Turkey’s financial crimes police first detained him along with some 150 of his followers in a series of raids.
According to the state-run Anadolu Agency (AA), more than 50 guns, along with ammunition, were seized by police officers during the morning raids.
Assets of Oktar and his more than 200 followers were also reportedly confiscated by a court on the same day.
According to the indictment approved by the Istanbul Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office, Oktar faces charges of espionage, extortion, sexual assault and establishing and leading a criminal network among others.
The indictment charges a total of 226 suspects with more than 24 different crimes, while 13 of them are also accused of having a leading role in the alleged criminal group.
While 171 of the suspects are currently in prison, 52 of them were previously released by the court pending trial and placed under judicial supervision.
Twenty-five of the suspects also indicated their desire to benefit from the effective repentance law, which provides a reduction of sentence in exchange for testimonies that are useful for the prosecution.
Testimonies of 125 plaintiffs, who claimed to be victims of the group, and 23 other witnesses were also taken by the prosecutors who drafted the indictment.
If the Istanbul 29th High Criminal Court approves the indictment sent by the prosecutors, the trial of the suspects will reportedly begin in the upcoming days.
Oktar has been regularly denounced by Turkey’s religious authorities, with the head of Turkish Directorate of Religious Affairs (Diyanet), Ali Erbas, saying in February 2018 that he had “likely lost his mental balance.”
Turkey’s Radio and Television Supreme Council (RTUK) around the same time ordered a program presented by Oktar to cease broadcasting five times and handed down a fine on the grounds that it violated gender equality and belittled women.