Turkish cleric calls for international body to examine coup charges

September 23, 2016 2:13 PM EDT

U.S. based cleric Fethullah Gulen at his home in Saylorsburg, Pennsylvania, U.S. July 29, 2016. REUTERS/Charles Mostoller

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BERLIN (Reuters) - The U.S.-based cleric Fethullah Gulen has called for an international commission to investigate Turkey's charge that he orchestrated a failed coup last July, and said he would accept the findings if such a body found evidence of his guilt.

Gulen, who has lived in self-imposed exile in the U.S. state of Pennsylvania since 1999, told the German broadcaster ZDF in an interview broadcast on Friday that there was no evidence linking him to the thwarted putsch, which he has denounced.

He accused Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan of using the coup to silence opponents.

Turkey has dismissed or suspended more than 100,000 people in the military, civil service, police, judiciary and education system since a group of rogue soldiers tried to topple the government.

"An international organization should examine the issue. If the charges are correct, I will gladly accept what they want. But they haven't proven anything or responded to my suggestions. It's all just pure conjecture," Gulen told ZDF.

"If they can prove that I spoke personally or by telephone with those responsible for the attempted coup, I would be happy to bear the consequences," he said.

Erdogan on Tuesday called on world leaders at the United Nations to take measures against what he called Gulen's "terrorist network", which he said threatened their security.

Turkish authorities have accused Gulen of building up over decades a network of followers inside the armed forces and civil service that attempted to take control of the government.

They have asked the United States to extradite or detain the cleric, who was once a close ally of Erdogan's.

U.S. Vice President Joe Biden last month told Erdogan during a visit to Ankara that Washington was cooperating with the extradition request but needed evidence to meet U.S. legal standards.

Gulen told ZDF that, if Washington approved the extradition request, he would comply. "If the U.S. says 'Yes', then I will go. Then I will spend the rest of my numbered days being tormented by them so that I can free myself even more from my sins and mistakes and reach God as a pure man."

(Reporting by Andrea Shalal; Editing by Kevin Liffey)

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