Turkish police detained a televangelist notorious for propagating conservative views while surrounded by women he refers to as his "kittens". Picture: Wikipedia

Ankara, Turkey - Turkish police on Wednesday detained on fraud charges a televangelist notorious for propagating conservative views while surrounded by scantily-clad women he refers to as his "kittens".

Adnan Oktar, who also denies evolution and is regarded by critics as the leader of a cult, was detained alongside almost 80 alleged supporters on accusations of fraud, bribery and sexual assault, reports said.

Oktar is a controversial figure in Turkey who gained notoriety for his programmes on the online A9 television channel and had regularly been denounced by Turkey's religious. 

He presented programmes surrounded by scantily-clad and heavily made-up women -- who appeared to have had plastic surgery -- who he dubbed "kittens". 

He was taken into custody in Istanbul as part of a probe by the city's police financial crimes unit, state-run Anadolu news agency said. A total of 235 arrest warrants were issued in a major crackdown on the group.

Oktar was caught as he was trying to run away, the Istanbul public prosecutor said in a statement, quoted by the Hurriyet daily.

In raids supported by helicopter in Istanbul and three other provinces, officers have already detained 79 people, the newspaper reported.

His female companions -- the "kittens" -- are believed to be among those sought by police including 106 women in Istanbul, Ankara as well as the southern cities of Mugla and Antalya.

Oktar is a creationist who rejects the Darwinian theory of evolution and has written a 770-page book "The Atlas of Creation" under the pen name, Harun Yahya.

Oktar first came to media attention in the 1990s when he was the leader of a sect caught up in multiple sex scandals. As a result, he had faced similar criminal charges of setting up a criminal organisation.

The head of Turkey's Diyanet religious affairs agency Ali Erbas said earlier this year that Oktar had "likely lost his mental balance", prompting a war of words with the televangelist.

In February, workers from the Turkish Diyanet and Foundation Workers' Union (Diyanet-Sen) launched a legal complaint against Oktar over various allegations including insulting sacred values.

In the same month, Turkey's audiovisual authority RTUK ordered a programme presented by Oktar to cease broadcasting five times and handed down a fine because it violated gender equality and belittled women.