U.S.-based Turkish cleric says he’d accept extradition

SAYLORSBURG, Pa. — U.S.-based cleric Fethullah Gulen, whose followers Turkey blames for a failed coup, says he would obey any extradition ruling from the United States but alleges that President Tayyip Erdogan staged the putsch.

“I am not really worried about the extradition request,” Gulen told reporters on Sunday (July 17), speaking through a translator in Pennsylvania where he lives.

Turkey has said it is putting together an extradition request for the cleric. The U.S. government has said it would consider any formal request.

Gulen, a former Erdogan ally who has lived in self-imposed exile in the United States for years, has denied involvement in the failed coup.

Secretary of State John Kerry said on Saturday that the United States is willing to help Turkey as it tries to identify those involved in the coup attempt, but made clear it would only act if there was evidence against Gulen.

“We fully anticipate that there will be questions raised about Mr Gulen, and obviously we invite the government of Turkey … to present us with any legitimate evidence that withstands scrutiny and the United States will accept that and look at it and make judgments appropriately,” he said.

Kerry, who spoke during a trip to Luxembourg, said the United States had not received any request to extradite Gulen.

Speaking to reporters on Saturday, the Turkish cleric 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.

“There is a slight chance, there is a possibility that it could be a staged coup,” Gulen said. “It could be meant for court accusations and associations.”

Gulen said democracy cannot be achieved through military action. He criticized Erdogan’s government.

“It appears that they have no tolerance for any movement, any group, any organization that is not under their total control,” he said.

Erdogan and the government have said that Gulen’s followers in the military were responsible for the attempted take-over on Friday night and early Saturday morning.

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 earlier in a statement.

“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 at a resort in this town in Pennsylvania’s Pocono Mountains for years and reaches followers with online sermons.