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U.S.-Based Turkish Cleric Rejects Coup Plot Charges

Fethullah Gulen during an interview on July 16.

Fethullah Gulen during an interview on July 16.

Turkish Muslim cleric Fethullah Gulen has rejected any involvement in the failed coup attempt against Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

Gulen, who lives in exile in the eastern U.S. state of Pennsylvania, said on July 16 that he had "no knowledge" of the military coup attempt that began late on July 15 and that he condemned any violent attempt to oust the Turkish government.

The reclusive Gulen, who is in his mid-70s, spoke to reporters at an Islamic compound amid accusations by Turkish officials of involvement by Gulen supporters in the coup attempt.

"You can think about many motivations of people who staged this coup," Gulen said. "They could be sympathizers of the opposition party; they could be sympathizers of the nationalist party."

Erdogan called for U.S. officials to send Gulen -- who has lived in the United States since 1999 -- back to Turkey during a rally in Istanbul on July 16.

"Mr. [U.S.] President [Barack Obama], I told you myself, either deport or hand over to us this person," said Erdogan. "I told you that he was engaged in coup plots, but I was not listened to.... Deliver this man who lives in Pennsylvania to Turkey."

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said on July 16 that the Obama administration would consider an extradition request for Gulen but would only comply if Washington was shown proof of the cleric's guilt.

Gulen is a former ally of Erdogan who became a sharp critic of the Turkish president's authoritarian ways.

Based on reporting by AP and Reuters