Court acquits controversial Turkish sect leader

Ankara, Turkey - A top Turkish court on Friday endorsed the acquittal of sect leader Fettullah Gulen, paving the way of his return from exile in U.S.. Gulen, the most controversial preacher in Turkey, has good relations with Islamist AKP government and has a wide following but many in Turkey believe he is plotting to destroy the secular state.

In its ruling, the Appeals Court upheld an earlier verdict from a lower court, saying Gulen and his followers were not guilty of forming an illegal terrorist organization that aimed to introduce sharia law using force and violence. The court case against Gulen was based on videotapes that showed him weeping and fainting with religious ecstasy and urging supporters holding public office in Turkey not to show their hand too early.

Gulen, the author of dozens of books on religion, science and philosophy, has a strong presence in education not only in Turkey but also in the Balkans and Central Asia. His network also includes a university, a newspaper and a number of businesses.

The Economist, one of the leading financial magazines in Europe, published last week an article about the Gulen movement. His followers say they have more than 500 places of learning in 90 countries, Economist said. "In its homeland, the Gulen movement is seen as a counterweight to ultra-nationalism. But in places far from home, the movement has rather a Turkish nationalist flavor" it added.