Turkey issues arrest warrant for US-based preacher Gulen over coup, as he denounces ‘authoritarian’ move

PUBLISHED : Friday, 05 August, 2016, 12:54pm
UPDATED : Friday, 05 August, 2016, 10:11pm

Turkey issued an arrest warrant on Thursday for US-based preacher Fethullah Gulen, accusing him of ordering the coup attempt aimed at ousting President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

In the warrant, Gulen stands accused of “ordering the July 15 coup”, the Anadolu news agency reported.

Gulen strongly denies any involvement and the movement he leads insists it is a charitable network promoting tolerant Islam. He denounced the warrant.

“It is well-documented that the Turkish court system is without judicial independence, so this warrant is yet another example of President (Tayyip) Erdogan’s drive for authoritarianism and away from democracy,” said Gulen in a statement on Thursday.

The warrant issued by an Istanbul court for the reclusive cleric who is based in Pennsylvania is the first since the failed putsch, Anadolu said.

Ankara has sent two sets of documents to Washington since the coup as evidence of his involvement in the putsch attempt.

US State Department spokesman Mark Toner said American officials were reviewing the documents to determine whether they constituted a formal extradition request.

The crisis in Turkey has erupted at a time when the Ankara-Washington relationship is as important as ever, with the US needing Turkish help in the battle against Islamic State militants in Syria.

US fighter jets have been using Turkey’s southern base of Incirlik as a crucial launch point for lethal raids against IS targets in neighbouring Syria.

A rogue faction within the military tried to wrest control of the country on July 15, launching attacks on parliament and the president’s palace.

At least 272 people including 34 coup plotters were killed and nearly 2,200 injured after people took to the streets and squares in support of the government.

Since the putsch attempt, thousands have been purged from their roles in the judiciary, police, military and education system, accused of being members of the coup movement, while more than 25,000 people have been detained.

Erdogan said Thursday that the Gulen “virus” spread everywhere and vowed to cleanse the state from the movement.

“Each school, each house, each cramming school and each company of this structure is a hotbed of terror,” he said.

“Those men are murderers... those men are hypocrites... those men are insidious... those men are thieves.”

More than 13,000 people have been remanded in custody while nearly 75,000 passports have been cancelled since the coup bid.

Over 60,000 people within military, judiciary, civil service and education have been dismissed, detained or are currently under investigation for suspected links to the Gulen movement.