Erdogan Calls on Obama to Extradite Cleric Blamed for Leading Coup Attempt

Turkey's Erdogan says Gulen's followers in the military were those responsible for trying to topple government. 'I condemn, in the strongest terms, the attempted military coup in Turkey,' Gulen says.

Turkish President Erdogan, left, and Turkish Muslim preacher Fethullah Gulen, right.
Turkish President Erdogan, left, and Turkish Muslim preacher Fethullah Gulen, right. Zaman Daily and Selahattin Sevi, AFP

REUTERS - Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan called on his American counterpart Barack Obama Saturday to extradite Islamic cleric Fethullah Gulen to Turkey, accusing him of participating in a failed coup attempt Friday night.

Who is Fethullah Gulen?

"Dear Mr. President, I told you this before. Either arrest Fethullah Gulen or return him to Turkey. You didn't listen," said Erdogan. "I call on you again, after there was a coup attempt. Extradite this man in Pennsylvania to Turkey! If we are strategic partners or model partners, do what is necessary."

A Turkish official told Haaretz Saturday that a proper process had already been underway to convince the U.S. of Gulen's guilt in multiple alleged crimes so that he may be extradited to Turkey.

"We have been preparing a formal application with detailed information about Gulen's involvement in illegal activities," said the official. "After last night, we have one more thing to add to an already extensive list."

Earlier on Saturday, Gulen denied accusations he played a role in the attempted coup in Turkey and said he condemned "in the strongest terms" the attempt to topple the government.

Erdogan and the government have said that Gulen's followers in the military were responsible for the attempted take-over.

The government accuses Gulen of trying to create a "parallel structure" in the police, judiciary, media and armed forces, aimed at taking over the state, a charge the cleric denies.

"I condemn, in the strongest terms, the attempted military coup in Turkey," Gulen said in a statement.

Gulen said that Democracy can never be achieved by military intervention and added suggested that the coup in Turkey could possibly have been staged.

"As someone who suffered under multiple military coups during the past five decades, it is especially insulting to be accused of having any link to such an attempt. I categorically deny such accusations."

The cleric has lived in self-imposed exile in the United States for years. The Obama administration would entertain an extradition request for the U.S.-based cleric, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said. But he said Turkey's government would have to prove Gulen's wrongdoing.

Visiting Luxembourg, Kerry said Turkey hasn't yet requested that the United States send home Gulen, who left Turkey in 1999.

"We haven't received any request with respect to Mr. Gulen," Kerry told reporters. "We fully anticipate that there will be questions raised about Mr. Gulen. 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.

President Obama on Friday urged all sides in Turkey to support the democratically elected government in Turkey, a key NATO ally.

In a statement issued after a meeting with his national security advisers Obama also urged those in Turkey to show restraint and avoid violence or bloodshed. Obama was to be briefed on the situation Saturday by his national security and foreign policy advisers