Turkish Islamist cult leader is accused of espionage

The Turkish Islamist cult group led by television evangelist Adnan Oktar, who was arrested on Wednesday, is accused of engaging in political and military espionage and providing intelligence to the U.S. and Israel, pro-government newspaper Star reported on Friday.

A witness, who previously had been a prominent member of the group, testified that Oktar had contacts in the U.S. State department and provided information to Israeli politicians.

The witness told the prosecutors that Oktar wanted to get in touch with court experts for the Reza Zarrab case in the United States, a trial regarding an alleged scheme used by Hakan Atilla, a former deputy head of Turkey’s state-owned Halkbank, and Iranian-Turkish gold dealer Zarrab to bypass U.S. sanctions on Iran with fictitious trades in gold and food.

Oktar, famous for his plastic surgery-enhanced assistants and his Creationist books, was arrested earlier this week by Turkish police along with more than one hundred alleged members of his group, which is accused of being a criminal gang, committing tax fraud and child abuse. 

The witness in Oktar’s investigation claimed that in accordance with Oktar’s instructions, she got in touch with a think-tank named Foundation For Defence of Democracies to reach the court experts, Jonathan and Mark Dubowitz. The witness also said that the two experts later came to Turkey and met Adnan Oktar. The experts requested Oktar to arrange a meeting with banker Hakan Atilla and a senior person from the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP), the witness said, added that the lawsuit against Zarrab and Atilla was filed right after the meeting took place.

According to the witness, Oktar’s group was also communicating with an intelligence officer in the U.S. State Department, whose name or code name is Lee Thurman.

Moreover, Oktar provided intelligence to Israel on Turkish politicians in exchange for Israel’s support for his group’s propaganda activities in the country, the witness said, adding that Oktar arranged open and closed meeting for politicians and religious leaders coming from Israel to Turkey.

The witness is believed to be Ceylan Özgül, who ran away from Adnan Oktar’s premises in İstanbul in 2017. On Thursday, a photograph circulated of Özgül attending a meeting recently organised by Bosphorus Global, a pro-government organisation led by columnist Hilal Kaplan and her husband Süheyb Öğüt. According to those leaking the photograph, the meeting was organised to host members of the U.K. House of Lords who were visiting Turkey.