Pro-sharia Islamic preacher arrested following criticism of Afrin offensive

Turkish police arrested Turkish preacher and 20 of his followers last week in the southern city of Adana on charges of disturbing public order and establishing a criminal organisation.

Alparslan Kuytul, the founder of the pro-sharia Furkan Foundation, has been a vocal critic of AKP governments since 2014 and has been under increasing government pressure.

After police raided his house and foundation headquarters, Kuytul's organisation was temporarily shut down and its offices cordoned off.

Police anti-terror, anti-smuggling and organised crime units also launched operations against the foundation’s other branch offices in two other cities. The prosecutors seized materials from the foundation and appointed a trustee to take control of its affairs.

Kuytul has a significant social media following and has been critical of the government's restrictions on free speech and its heavy-handed approach to protesters, in particular the police beatings of women wearing headscarves. Kuytul also opposed the government’s campaign for an executive presidency in last year’s referendum.

Kuytul described on social media the attacks he said he had been subject to.

“Such Muslims are the reason why many agnostic people in this country turn faithless,” he wrote. “They are attacking us in the courts, they are attacking us with their televisions and newspapers ... The main issue is that I dare to criticise them.”

Kuytul was also critical of the state of emergency in force since the failed coup of July 2016,

“A lot of people are being oppressed. Tens of thousands of people are rotting in jail without reason. Yet those who live in palaces claim that there is no suffering and there are no victims. There are tens of thousands of people who have been dismissed from their jobs only to be found not guilty, tens of thousands who have been imprisoned and found innocent.”

Kuytul has often been accused of being part of the movement of U.S.-based preacher Fethullah Gülen, the man Turkey blames for the 2016 abortive coup, of being a supporter of the armed Kurdish separatist PKK and of the Islamic State.

Kuytul’s most recent row with the government came after comments he made concerning the ongoing Turkish offensive against the Kurdish-held Syrian enclave of Afrin.

“There is no need to exaggerate the military operation. After all, we are not going to conquer Syria. They’ll fight and come back,” he said. “The Turkish military had similar operations before, but never was the matter been transformed into a political show.”

Kuytul, who studied Islamic law at Al-Azhar University in Egypt, is a critic of the government's policies towards the Kurds, believing that all Muslims should be seen as part of the ummah, or community, of believers.