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Erdogan calls on US to extradite preacher Gulen in Istanbul speech

Secretary of State John Kerry said US will assist Turkey in investigation of failed coup and invited Ankara to share any evidence it has against Gulen
Exiled Turkish Muslim preacher Fethullah Gulen at his residence in Saylorsburg, Pennsylvania in 2013 (AFP/Zaman Daily)

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Saturday urged the United States to extradite the preacher Fethullah Gulen, who he accuses of masterminding the failed coup, to face trial in Turkey.

"The United States - you must extradite that person," he told thousands of supporters in Istanbul, referring to Gulen, who lives in Pennsylvania and has denied any involvement in Friday's attempted coup.

Gulen, who has lived in self-imposed exile in the US for more than a decade, maintains a following within Turkey and his supporters are believed to have raised some $17m between 2004 and 2015, the Voice of America (VOA) reported. Gulen denied involvement in the coup and his followers say they are victims of an unfair crackdown and have accused Erdogan of increasingly authoritarian measures.

Turkey's government accuses the Gulen movement of infiltrating the police, judiciary and political system and creating a state within a state.

Erdogan said he had repeatedly told US President Barack Obama that Gulen threatened Turkey's security and should be extradited.

"I am calling on America here, I am calling on Mr President (Obama)," he told the crowd.

"Mr President, I told you myself, either deport or hand over to us this person who lives in 400 acres of land in Pennsylvania," he said, carefully not referring to Gulen by name.

"I told you that he was engaged in coup plots but I was not listened to. Now again today after the coup I say it again. Deliver this man who lives in Pennsylvania to Turkey," Erdogan said.

Secretary of State John Kerry said on Saturday that the US will assist Turkey in the investigation of the failed coup and invited Ankara to share any evidence it has against Gulen.

"We fully anticipate that there will be questions raised about Mr Gulen," Kerry said in Luxembourg.

When asked if any of his backers were involved in the coup attempt, Gulen told The New York Times from his compound: "I don't know who my followers are."

"Since I do not know these individuals, I cannot speak of their potential involvement. It could be something from the opposition or nationalists. I have been away from Turkey for 30 years and have not been following this."

Shortly after the coup attempt began, Gulen had in a statement condemned the military uprising "in the strongest terms."

During his rare interview with the Times, Gulen said it was "possible" the coup was staged by Erdogan.

"But as a believer like myself, I cannot make accusations without evidence. It could be a lie, it could be a false accusation and I seek refuge from God in false accusations," Gulen said.

"Some leaders stage... false suicide attacks to strengthen their hand, such people may come up with such scenarios. As a believer, I cannot make false accusations."

Gulen preaches Sunni Islam together with a message of interfaith dialogue and his movement, known as Hizmit (Service), operates in Europe, the US, Asia and Africa, VOA said.

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