Turkish prosecutor charges religious sect followers with membership in an illegal group

ANKARA, Turkey - A Turkish prosecutor on Wednesday charged 12 followers of a tiny Muslim sect who were apparently trying to recruit followers in Turkey with membership in an illegal group.

The 12 were detained in Istanbul in April during a police crackdown on the followers of the Kadiyani sect. A 13th person who was also arrested in April was charged Wednesday with aiding and abetting an illegal organization.

The group follows the teachings of Mirza Gulam Ahmed-El Kadiyani, who lived in India between 1835 and 1908, and is considered heretical by many mainstream Muslims because members regard Kadiyani as a prophet.

A prosecutor charged the 12 with membership in an illegal organization. They face up to five years in prison if convicted. No trial date has been set.

The prosecutor's indictment, obtained by the semi-official Anatolia news agency, said the group was engaged in "a disciplined and programed task to establish itself in Turkey."

Anatolia said police detained the 13 after a former follower complained he was being threatened for trying to leave the group.

There was no other evidence that the group preached or was engaged in any acts of violence.

Predominantly Muslim Turkey has strict secular laws and authorities have been cracking down on radical Islamic groups who advocate replacing the secular system with an Islamic regime.

The group is largely unknown in Turkey and it is not clear how many followers it may have had.