An Istanbul court handed down one of the world’s longest prison sentences to Adnan Oktar, a Turkish televangelist who ran a cult involved in a long list of crimes. During Wednesday’s final hearing in a retrial, Oktar and 14 other defendants were handed down 8,658 years of prison terms each.
The current sentences did not exceed prison terms slapped by the court in earlier hearings – which were 9,803 years and six months – but are still one of the longest in the country and in the world.
The first verdict in the trial against Oktar and his minions was announced in January 2021. An appeals court had overturned the verdict, citing legal shortcomings, and ordered a retrial. The appeals court’s verdict paved the way for 68 defendants to walk free due to time spent in custody until the court date and other factors, while the court ordered prolonged detention of Oktar and his close associates.
Prosecutors had appealed the verdict for the release and the 61 defendants ordered to be released were detained again when the court accepted the objection. Fifty among them were arrested, while a retrial had been underway since early 2022.
On Wednesday, judges had their final say on the fate of 215 defendants, including 72 in detention, dashing the hopes of Oktar who was confident that he would be released, according to his statements in earlier hearings. This time, Oktar was sentenced to 891 years in prison on charges of running a criminal organization, sexual abuse, denial of education rights, torture, abduction and illegal storage of personal data.
Oktar, in total, was sentenced to 8,658 years as the court reasoned that he should be sentenced for crimes committed by his disciples as the head of the cult.
The indictment against Oktar and others, presented to the court in September, accuse them of running an armed organization, exploiting religious sentiment. They are accused of collecting intelligence-related information and defaming cult members seeking to sever their ties.
Oktar is also accused of systemic sexual abuse of the cult’s members and collecting private data regarding high-profile names, from politicians to journalists.