A Turkish court has sentenced a Muslim televangelist to 8,658 years in prison in a retrial for running a cult whose members were accused of crimes including sexual assault to blackmail, money laundering and espionage.
Adnan Oktar, who wrote books under the pen name Harun Yahya, was previously sentenced to 1,075 years in jail after being tried in Istanbul alongside 236 others accused of being members or enablers of his network.
That verdict was overturned this year on procedural grounds.
Wednesday’s sentence includes 891 years for crimes committed in his personal capacity and the rest for those by his followers, state-run Anadolu Agency reported.
He became well-known in Turkey over the years, especially for provocative TV shows broadcast on his own channel.
On-screen, the cult leader surrounded himself with young women he called his “kittens”, who would declare their love for him and were often dressed in revealing clothing while he uttered opinions on religious and political matters.
Oktar, 66, and hundreds of his followers were arrested in 2018 after a police raid on his villa revealed he ran a criminal ring under the disguise of an Islamic cult that carried out international anti-evolution campaigns through various publishing houses and media outlets. His TV channel was also closed.
He has denied any wrongdoing.
His Atlas of Creation book argues against evolution, saying all life was created by God in a “perfect” form.
It could be seen on a bookshelf behind European Central Bank President Christine Lagarde as she spoke at an online summit on the Covid-19 pandemic. Thousands of free copies were sent to politicians, journalists and schools around the world.
The French Education Ministry ordered removal of the book from schools, saying it met “none of the quality requirements laid down for classroom teaching”.