Turkish cult leader Oktar’s villa up for sale for $3M

Daily Sabah, Turkey/July 27, 2022

The once base of Adnan Oktar's bizarre cult, a posh villa in Istanbul’s quaint Çengelköy neighborhood is now on the market for $3 million (TL 53.7 million), the Sabah newspaper reported on Tuesday. The price tag may appear high for the property that looks dilapidated nowadays but it is reasonable for a three-story building with a vast courtyard, swimming pool and other amenities.

The cult nicknamed the villa the “Studio” as it hosted their A9 TV station where the lavish lifestyles of Oktar and cult members were televised, peppered with lengthy ramblings by the cult leader. On a more serious note, the villa is also where Oktar and fellow cult members are alleged to have sexually abused young women. The villa was rented by the cult and is the second property belonging to the group to be put on sale, after another luxurious residence that was reportedly their main “headquarters” was put on sale for TL 190 million.

The villa was stripped of its furniture after security forces raided it and arrested cult members, effectively putting an end to the longstanding legacy of Oktar, who has been staple in the headlines since the 1990s for his eccentric lifestyle and allegations of brainwashing young women and men and recruiting them into his group.

Before the raids, the villa had bulletproof iron gates and a security checkpoint though they were removed later. The cult’s armed members used to stand guard around-the-clock and raids revealed thousands of pieces of ammunition, guns and bulletproof vests on the premises.

Oktar was handed a prison term amounting to more than 9,803 years in a hearing on Jan. 11, 2021, on charges of founding and running an armed criminal organization, sexual offenses, aiding the Gülenist Terror Group (FETÖ) and political or military espionage. An appeals court overturned the verdict for 68 defendants in a case against the cult last March but new arrest warrants were issued for 61 defendants days later. So far, 50 convicted cult members were re-arrested and incarcerated.

Sixty-four-year-old Oktar and dozens of his followers were arrested in simultaneous nationwide raids in 2018. A 499-page indictment portrayed him and others as a criminal gang thriving on blackmail, extortion, money laundering and a string of other crimes.

Prosecutors said the gang he led had been involved in a recruitment scheme since the late 1990s and this involved brainwashing young women. "The organization used its good-looking members to deceive young girls and women. Those members raped or sexually abused women and were blackmailed first by members pretending that their affairs were recorded on video. They were also brainwashed under the pretext of religious teachings," prosecutors said in the indictment.

Adnan Oktar, a university dropout, made a name for himself in the 1980s when he gained a following among university students, mostly children of the wealthy elite. During that period, he was once arrested for promoting a theocratic revolution. After a stint in a mental institution and penning books under the alias Harun Yahya, Oktar expanded his cult in the 1990s through the Science Research Foundation, which he founded mainly to promote his anti-evolution books. In the 2000s, he became a household name after he founded A9 TV and sporadically appeared on hourslong talk shows where he delivered his opinions on world views, occasionally breaking into bizarre dance routines with his followers. According to prosecutors, Oktar was more than a man who spouted rambling lectures about religion and conspiracy theories while surrounded by impeccably dressed young men and women wearing heavy makeup. Former followers and families of young women allegedly brainwashed by the cult came forward during the investigation and recounted threats, suppression and blackmail to keep the followers in the cult and blindly submit to Oktar's orders.

In his final defense in the hearings, Oktar had flatly rejected allegations against him. He had denied sexual abuse allegations, claiming he had "close to 1,000 girlfriends" and had an "overflowing of love for women."

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