Fethullah Gulen, the exiled cleric accused by the Turkish government of orchestrating last year’s attempted coup, on May 16 accused President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of “doing everything he can to amass power and subjugate dissent” as the Turkish leader arrived in Washington for talks with US President Donald Trump.
In an opinion piece entitled “The Turkey I no longer know”, published by The Washington Post, the Islamic scholar and preacher called on the West to “help Turkey return to a democratic path”.
Erdogan was planning to use his May 16 visit to the White House to press for the extradition of Gulen, but in the article the cleric defiantly denied any involvement with the failed putsch, stating: “Since July 15, following a deplorable coup attempt, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has systematically persecuted innocent people – arresting, detaining, firing and otherwise ruining the lives of more than 300,000 Turkish citizens, be they Kurds, Alevis, secularists, leftists, journalists, academics or participants of Hizmet, the peaceful humanitarian movement with which I am associated.
“As the coup attempt unfolded, I fiercely denounced it and denied any involvement. Furthermore, I said that anyone who participated in the putsch betrayed my ideals. Nevertheless, and without evidence, Erdogan immediately accused me of orchestrating it from 5,000 miles away.”
Erdogan on April 16 claimed the right to create an executive presidency in Turkey with sweeping powers after the official count declared that he had narrowly won a referendum, despite allegations of serious ballot box fraud.
Gulen wrote that the executive presidency was set to be created “without checks and balances, enabling [Erdogan] to control all three branches of the government”. He added: “To be sure, through purges and corruption, much of this power was already in his hands. I fear for the Turkish people as they enter this new stage of authoritarianism.”
Gulen noted that according to Amnesty International one-third of all imprisoned journalists in the world are in Turkish prisons. He concluded his piece, saying: “I probably will not live to see Turkey become an exemplary democracy, but I pray that the downward authoritarian drift can be stopped before it is too late.”
On May 16, Turkey’s Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu kept up the pressure on Gulen with an article published by Foreign Policy magazine. He wrote: “Gulen, who was declared by his cult as the ‘imam of the universe’, has attempted to destroy democracy in Turkey. The people of Turkey expect the US authorities to take effective legal measures against this threat to our security and democracy, as an ally should.”
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