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Turkish court arrests anti-gov’t Islamic preacher in connection to abduction of businessman

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A Turkish court on Monday ruled for the arrest of Alparslan Kuytul, leader of the Furkan Foundation — an anti-government religious group — in connection to the abduction of a businessman in the southern province of Adana last year, Turkish media outlets reported.

Kuytul was detained by police in Adana on Monday morning for involvement in the abduction of businessman Koray Sarısaçlı in September 2021 allegedly by members of the Furkan Foundation.

Sarısaçlı said in September that he was not abducted by members of the group. However, two months later, he changed his testimony under pressure to increase the charges against the group’s members.

Kuytul was arrested as part of an investigation conducted by the Adana Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office on charges of instigation of deprivation of liberty, extortion, bodily harm and torture.

The Furkan Foundation described the arrest of Kuytul as a shameful and unlawful decision on Twitter on Monday, saying their leader was arrested based on orders from “shadowy powers that wanted to silence him.”

According to a report on Halk TV, Kuytul told the prosecutor in his statement that he had nothing to do with the abduction.

“Koray Sarısaçlı’s claims lack any concrete grounds. This incident could be a sham. I think some power centers plotted this incident,” he was quoted as saying.

Meanwhile, Kuytul’s lawyer Bilal İpek said in a tweet on Tuesday that he was able to obtain information about the whereabouts of his client only hours after his arrest and that Kuytul had been sent to a prison in the eastern province of Ağrı.

“The distance between Ağrı and Adana is 900 kilometers [559 miles]. I think this is more like exile than a transfer,” he said.

An outspoken critic of the policies of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s Justice and Development Party (AKP) government, Kuytul and members of his foundation are facing growing pressure from the government for strongly advocating that religion and politics should not mix and criticizing the AKP government for that.

Four members of the group were detained on Sept. 9, 2021 on charges of abducting Sarısaçlı in Adana and were allegedly subjected to torture and denigrating treatment at the police department for four days. They were released by a court in September, only to be detained the next day upon the objection of the prosecutor.

Two more members were arrested on Dec. 27 and another on Jan. 4 on the same charges.

Kuytul was also arrested in 2018 for criticizing Turkey’s military involvement in northern Syria. He publicly opposed the government’s decision to send Turkish soldiers to Afrin, after which he was detained along with 28 other people from the foundation.

They were charged with “abusing their religious power” and “organizing a terrorist organization.” Kuytul was acquitted in 2020, but raids on members’ homes and offices in various cities have repeatedly taken place since then.

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