Gülen calls on US to ‘resist’ demands for his extradition
AFP photoPennsylvania-based Islamic scholar Fethullah Gülen, believed to be the mastermind of the failed coup attempt on July 15, has denied the accusations against him and said the United States “must resist” Turkey’s request for his extradition, in remarks which contradicted his earlier claim that his extradition was not “an important issue.”
In an opinion piece published by The New York Times on July 26, Gülen outlined his philosophy as “inclusive and pluralist Islam” that was “antithetical to armed rebellion” and said his movement did not orchestrate the bloody coup attempt that killed at least 246 and wounded over 2,000 people, excluding the coup plotters.
“At a time when Western democracies are searching for moderate Muslim voices, I and my friends in the Hizmet movement have taken a clear stance against extremist violence, from the Sept. 11 attacks by al-Qaeda to brutal executions by the Islamic State [of Iraq and the Levant - ISIL] to the kidnappings by Boko Haram,” Gülen wrote, mentioning the Turkish name for his movement, which translates as “service.”
“If somebody who appears to be a Hizmet sympathizer has been involved in an attempted coup, he betrays my ideals,” he added.
Arguing that Ankara was pushing for his extradition through “blackmailing” Washington by curbing support for the international coalition against ISIL, Gülen claimed Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan was “turning a failed putsch into a slow-motion coup of his own against [Turkey’s] constitutional government.”
“His [Erdoğan’s] goal: To ensure my extradition, despite a lack of credible evidence and virtually no prospect for a fair trial. The temptation to give Mr. Erdoğan whatever he wants is understandable. But the United States must resist it,” Gülen wrote.
In his first remarks after the coup attempt, Gülen was quoted by a website under his control on July 19 as saying that his extradition “is not an important matter.”
His remarks in a video were interpreted by many as claiming responsibility of the plot.
“A person who bows before God, would not bow before anyone else, even if there is an execution at the end of it,” he said in the video.
“Let the numbers of idiots keep laughing, thinking that they had success. Let them hold ceremonies, weddings. Let them name their ridiculous situation a feast.”
Prime Minister Binali Yıldırım has said July 15 should be named a feast of democracy to mark people’s success in stopping the coup.
“They will get embarrassed if they remain alive. If they die, they will regret at the hereafter,” Gülen briefly said.
The U.S. recently made an offer to form a working group composed of officials from its foreign affairs and justice departments in order to assist Turkey in preparing its formal request for Gülen’s extradition.
For its part Washington demanded “solid evidence” linking Gülen directly to the coup plot instead of allegations. Turkey’s request would need to include information that “specifically links the individual to the events that occurred,” U.S. State Dept. Spokesperson John Kirby said on July 21.
The Turkish government has sought the extradition of Gülen for over two years, but this was the first time a formal request had been made on the issue which has strained Turkish-American ties.
Turkey accuses Gülen, who had been a close ally of the Justice and Development Party (AKP) until recently, of infiltrating public institutions and creating a “parallel state” with the aim of toppling the country’s democratically-elected government. Gülen has been residing in the U.S. since 1999.
Gülen’s account of events contradicts the testimonies of several high-profile witnesses, including Turkish Chief of General Staff Gen. Hulusi Akar, who was held hostage during the night of the coup attempt. Akar said Bridg. Gen. Hakan Evrim wanted him to talk to Gülen in an attempt to convince him to support the plot.