Fethullah Gulen, the 75-year old Turkish imam living in self-imposed exile in Pennsylvania, threw an accusation back at President Tayyip Erdogan after Turkey’s president squarely blamed him for Friday’s military coup attempt.
“There is a slight chance, there is a possibility that it could be a staged coup,” Gulen toldreporters, speaking through a translator at his Pennsylvania compound. “It could be meant for court accusations and associations.”
Referring to Erdogan’s regime, Gulen said “It appears that they have no tolerance for any movement, any group, any organization that is not under their total control.”
Still, Gulen condemned the coup plot and said democracy in Turkey could not be achieved using military action.
Erdogan blamed Gulen for involvement in the coup attempt and called on the Obama administration to extradite the cleric.
“Today, after this coup attempt, I’m once again calling on you, I’m saying: Extradite this man in Pennsylvania to Turkey now,” Erdogan said in televised remarks appealing directly to Obama.
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said on Saturday the Obama administration would investigation any accusations against Gulen if they are presented by Turkey along with an extradition request.
“We fully anticipate that there will be questions raised about Mr. Gulen,” Kerry told reporters. “And obviously we would invite the government of Turkey, as we always do, to present us with any legitimate evidence that withstands scrutiny. And the United States will accept that and look at it and make judgments about it appropriately.”
“I’m confident there will be some discussion about that,” Kerry added.
Gulen’s theory that the coup attempt could have been possibly been staged by Erdogan has largely not been publically entertained in mainstream diplomatic circles.
While many Western analysts believe Erdogan will clamp down on domestic dissent even further and attempt to accumulate more power to his executive presidency, the significant coup attempt is widely considered, in the short term at least, to be a significant blow to Erdogan’s prestige and his image as a strongman.