- Erdogan and Gulen are bitter rivals
- Request comes amid vast purge of security forces, judiciary
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan blames Gulen, a longtime bitter rival, for the attempted coup that began Friday night.
He had told CNN in an exclusive interview on Monday that the extradition request was coming soon.
Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim made the announcement about the extradition request in Parliament on Tuesday, also tweeting, “We have sent four files to the United States requesting the extradition of ‘the terrorist leader.'”
The Muslim cleric, living in self-imposed exile in Pennsylvania, has denied any involvement.
“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,” Gulen said earlier.
“My position on democracy is really clear. Any attempt to overthrow the country is a betrayal to our unity and is treason.”
The request is just the latest move by the Turkish government, which has responded to the failed coup with an iron fist.
Government-backed forces have arrested more than 7,000 people and gutted some its security forces, dismissing almost 9,000 people from the Interior Ministry, mostly police officers.
Among those arrested are at least 118 generals and admirals, accounting for a third of the general-rank command of the Turkish military, according to Turkish state broadcaster TRT.
More than 80 judges are among those detained, as are lawyers, senior aides and police.
Friends turned foes
Erdogan and Gulen are former allies whose relationship fell into a bitter feud in 2013.
Erdogan supporters outside Gulen’s Pennsylvania home have been calling him him inflammatory names following the weekend violence. Gulen’s supporters accused Erdogan of scapegoating the cleric to simply grab at more power.
Gulen is an reclusive cleric who leads a popular movement called Hizmet.
Gulen supporters — known as Gulenists — describe the 75-year-old as a moderate Muslim cleric who champions interfaith dialogue.
Promotional videos show him meeting with Pope John Paul II in the Vatican in the 1990s. He also met frequently with rabbis and Christian priests in Turkey.
Hizmet is a global initiative inspired by Gulen, who espouses what The New York Times has described as “a moderate, pro-Western brand of Sunni Islam that appeals to many well-educated and professional Turks.”
Nongovernmental organizations founded by the Hizmet movement, including hundreds of secular co-ed schools, free tutoring centers, hospitals and relief agencies, are credited with addressing many of Turkey’s social problems.
Whistleblower site WikiLeaks seems to think Turkey’s purge has spread to cyberspace. It says it has come under a sustained cyber attack after announcing on social media its plan to leak hundreds of thousands of documents on “Turkish power” on Tuesday.
Its website had said it would leak 300,000 emails and 500,000 documents in the wake of a failed military coup over the weekend, which has led to a vast purge of the country’s security forces and judiciary.
“We are unsure of the true origin of the attack. The timing suggests a Turkish state power faction or its allies. We will prevail & publish,” WikiLeaks tweeted late on Monday night.
It claimed that of the 300,000 emails, 43% were internal to the ruling Justice and Development Party led by Erdogan.
The WikiLeaks website appeared operation on Tuesday morning, and WikiLeaks said it planned to go ahead with publishing the #ErdoganEmails on Tuesday. It was unclear when the other 500,000 documents would be released. The organization says the emails date up until July 7, just over a week before the coup was launched last Friday night.
Death penalty talks
International pressure is mounting on Erdogan after he responded to the failed coup with an iron fist.
In an interview with CNN on Monday, he said refused to rule out the death penalty for thousands of people arrested in the political upheaval, despite warnings that reintroducing capital punishment could dash Turkey’s chances of joining the European Union.
It would take a parliamentary decision in the form of a constitutional measure to make the death penalty an option, Erdogan said.
“Leaders will have to get together and discuss it and if they accept to discuss it then I as President will approve any decision that comes out of the parliament,” he said.
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry also warned that Turkey must respect the law and its democratic institutions if it wants to remain part of NATO, the North Atlantic military and political alliance.