Reclusive Muslim cleric Fethullah Gulen, who lives in Pennsylvania, blamed for failed coup in Turkey
the wake of Friday's deadly coup attempt in Turkey, that country's president quickly laid blame on Fethullah Gulen, a Muslim cleric who has lived in exile in Pennsylvania since 1999 and controls a $25-billion religious organization.
Gulen, 75, who denied the charges in a statement, is a virtual recluse at the Golden Generation Worship and Retreat Center, constructed near Saylorsburg, Penn., in the 1990s as a center for Turkish American children.
Praised by supporters as a moderate who supports education and interreligious dialogue though his Hizmet movement, Gulen also has been accused of stealth efforts to topple the Turkish government and spread Islamic law, or Sharia, in Turkey and abroad.
"Fethullah Gulen is the leader of a terrorist organization," Prime Minister Benali Yildirim said in a statement Saturday. "Especially after what happened yesterday, I don't believe any country would support him. Whichever country supports him isn't a friend of Turkey. It is practically at war with Turkey."
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said the Obama administration would entertain an extradition request for Gulen, but he added that Turkey's government would have to prove his complicity. Visiting Luxembourg, Kerry said Saturday that Turkey hadn't yet requested the United States send the cleric home. But later in the day, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan issued a demand that the U.S. extradite Gulen.
In a statement released by his foundation, the Alliance for Shared Values, Gulen condemned Friday's coup attempt and rejected claims he was involved.
The government said more than 200 people were killed in the attempt, and 1,440 wounded. In addition, 104 soldiers identified as coup backers were killed in the fighting, and 2,839 members of the military had been arrested.
"Government should be won through a process of free and fair elections, not force," Gulen said. "I pray to God for Turkey, for Turkish citizens, and for all those currently in Turkey that this situation is resolved peacefully and quickly. 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."
A spokeswoman for Gulen's foundation, Safiye Embel, was unsure whether any of its officials would be available for an interview Saturday.
"As you can imagine, we have a lot of [media] requests right now," she said.
Earlier this year, Gulen was put on trial in absentia in Istanbul, accused of attempting to overthrow the government by instigating corruption probes that targeted people close to Erdogan.
Gulen and 68 others, including former police chiefs, have been charged with "attempting to overthrow the Turkish republic through the use of violence," leading a terrorist organization and "political espionage."
In a video that surfaced after his departure from Turkey in 1999, Gulen ordered followers to infiltrate key government positions and prepare for a coup — allegations that mirror charges the government filed against him in 2014.
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