Turkish authorities on Thursday formally arrested a controversial Islamic televangelist and cult leader on charges that include forming a criminal gang, blackmail and sexual abuse of minors.
At least 168 of Adnan Oktar's followers were also formally arrested on the same charges and taken to separate prisons in Istanbul pending trial.
Oktar, an Islamic preacher, ran his own television channel where he hosted talk shows on religious values that featured a bevy of heavily made-up women in tight clothing, dubbed "kittens". Oktar, who uses pen name Harun Yahya, has 'authored' numerous books promoting creationism against Darwin's theory of evolution.
He argues that the theory of evolution is the root of global terrorism, has previously accused British intelligence of requesting the Turkish authorities to take action against him.
The Istanbul prosecutor's office has labelled Oktar's group a criminal gang and said it aimed to commit crimes including sexual abuse of children, sexual assault, money laundering, depriving people of their freedom, fraud, bribery and torture.
Oktar rejected all accusations during his questioning, insisted that he was the victim of a plot hatched by plaintiffs and requested that he be released.