Ankara: Fethullah Gulen, a Muslim cleric who lives in exile in the US state of Pennsylvania and who once was an ally of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, has condemned the attempted military coup and denied any involvement in it.
“I condemn, in the strongest terms, the attempted military coup in Turkey,” he said in an emailed statement. “The government should be won through a process of free and fair elections, not force.”
“I pray to God for Turkey, for Turkish citizens and for all those currently in Turkey that this situation is resolved peacefully and quickly,” he added.
“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.”
Erdogan, who has returned to Istanbul and declared he wass in control of the government, has blamed the coup attempt on the followers of Gulen.
Gulen has for years lived as a recluse at the Golden Generation Worship and Retreat Centre, a compound in Saylorsburg, in the Poconos in Pennsylvania.
His group, Alliance for Shared Values, describes itself as “an umbrella non-profit organisation serving as a voice for civic, culture and service organisations” across the country.
His movement promotes a version of Islam that embraces science, education and interfaith dialogue, which has earned him millions of followers but also drawn the suspicion of many in Turkey’s establishment, writes The New York Times.
His movement has been feared by some for its ability to mobilise considerable resources and for its influence among decision-makers.
Erdogan, speaking at Istanbul Ataturk Airport on early Saturday, said that a coup attempt by members of the armed forces loyal to his rival Gulen, amounted to “treason”.
“A minority within the armed forces has unfortunately been unable to stomach Turkey’s unity,” Erdogan said, adding that individuals loyal to Gulen had “penetrated the armed forces and the police, among other government agencies, over the past 40 years.”
“What is being perpetrated is a rebellion and a treason,” Erdogan said, adding “They will pay a heavy price for their treason to Turkey.”