Turkish Islamic author given 3-year jail sentence

ISTANBUL Fri May 9, 2008 3:42pm EDT

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ISTANBUL (Reuters) - Controversial Turkish Islamic author Adnan Oktar was sentenced to three years in prison on Friday for creating an illegal organization for personal gain, state-run Anatolian news agency said.

A spokeswoman for his Science Research Foundation (BAV) confirmed to Reuters that Oktar had been sentenced but said the judge was influenced by political and religious pressure groups.

Oktar had been tried with 17 other defendants in an Istanbul court. The verdict and sentence came after a previous trial that began in 2000 after Oktar, along with 50 members of his foundation, was arrested in 1999.

In that court case, Oktar had been charged with using threats for personal benefit and creating an organization with the intent to commit a crime. The charges were dropped but another court picked them up resulting in the latest case.

Oktar planned to appeal the sentence, a BAV spokeswoman said. No further details were immediately available.

Oktar, born in 1956, is the driving force behind a richly funded movement based in Turkey that champions creationism, the belief that God literally created the world in six days as told in the Bible and the Koran.

Istanbul-based Oktar, who writes under the pen name Harun Yahya, has created waves in the past few years by sending out thousands of unsolicited texts advocating Islamic creationism to schools in several European countries.

TENSIONS HIGH

The court decision comes at a time when political tensions in officially secular but predominantly Muslim Turkey are high as the ruling AK Party faces a court case that seeks its closure for alleged Islamist activities, a claim the party denies.

Oktar's teachings echo those of Christian fundamentalists in the United States. He has publicly denounced Darwinism and Freemasonry in high-profile attacks.

Charles Darwin came up with the widely adopted evolutionary theory of natural selection in the 19th century.

Oktar's publishing house has published dozens of books that have been distributed in more than 150 countries and been translated into more than 50 languages. He has a wide following in the Muslim world.

But Turkish commentators say the group's books, numbering more than 200, are probably written by a pool of writers, a charge the author denies.

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