President Barack Obama on Friday said the United States strongly supports Turkey's democratically elected government, but that any extradition request for a U.S.-based Muslim cleric accused of being involved in last week's attempted coup will have to go through normal channels.
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Obama, speaking at a news conference, said he told Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan in a call earlier this week that the United States had no prior knowledge of the failed military coup.
"Any reports that we had any previous knowledge of a coup attempt, that there was any U.S. involvement in it, that we were anything other than entirely supportive of Turkish democracy are completely false, unequivocally false," Obama said, warning that such rumors threatened "a critical alliance and partnership between the United States and Turkey."
He said he also told Erdogan his government must present evidence of cleric Fethullah Gulen's alleged involvement in the abortive coup and that an extradition request targeting him would receive the review required by the Justice Department and other government agencies just like any other petition.
"America's governed by rules of law, and those are not ones that the president of the United States or anybody else can just set aside for the sake of expediency," Obama said. "We've got to go through a legal process."