Turkey has formally requested the extradition of US-based cleric Fethullah Gulen, the US State Department said Tuesday, but the request was not related to the attempted coup, which he is accused of orchestrating.
“We can confirm now that Turkey has requested the extradition of Gulen,” State Department spokesman Mark Toner told a briefing.
Toner added that the formal extradition request from Turkey was not related to the failed July 15 coup, but was for other issues for which Gulen was being sought by Turkish authorities.
A one-time ally of Erdogan turned arch-foe, Gulen has lived in self-imposed exile in the US since 1999.
Over the past three years, since a corruption scandal embroiling several of then Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s ministers erupted, Gulen has been repeatedly accused of running a “parallel state.”
He has dismissed accusations against him and his Hizmet movement, which runs a network of private schools, businesses and media outlets, as a “witch hunt.
Turkish authorities have intensified their crackdown on Gulen supporters since the failed coup attempt.
Tens of thousands of people from the military, judiciary, civil service and education suspected of links with Gulen’s movement have been dismissed from their jobs or detained.
Earlier this month, the reclusive cleric rejected accusations of involvement in the coup and called for an international inquiry into the putsch.
“I’m asking that an independent international commission investigate this attempted coup,” the Pennsylvania-based preacher wrote in the French daily Le Monde promising his “full cooperation.”
“If a tenth of the accusations levelled at me are proven I will return to Turkey to face the stiffest punishment,” Gulen, 75, added.