Updated: July 24, 2016 1:20:13 am
Turkish authorities detained a nephew of Fethullah Gulen, the US-based Muslim cleric accused by Ankara of orchestrating last weekend’s failed military coup, the state news agency Anadolu reported on Saturday.
Gulen, who has lived in self-imposed exile in the United States since 1999 but has an extensive network of schools, charities and followers in Turkey and elsewhere, denies any involvement in the July 15 coup attempt, in which at least 246 people were killed.
His nephew, Muhammed Sait Gulen, was detained in the northeastern Turkish city of Erzurum and will be brought to the capital Ankara for questioning, Anadolu reported. Among possible charges that could be brought against him is membership of a terrorist organisation, the agency said.
It is the first time a relative of Gulen has been detained reportedly, since the failed coup.
President Tayyip Erdogan has accused Gulen of building a “state within a state” and of plotting to overthrow Turkey’s government, charges that the 75-year-old cleric denied.
The development happened just two days after Turkey had made an official request to the US government to extradite Muslim Cleric Fethullah Gulen.
US Secretary of State John Kerry had sought concrete proof against Gulen from Turkey before any extradition proceeding could be initiated by the US government.
“With respect to Mr. Gulen, we have consistently said to our friends in Turkey and allies in Turkey that we need evidence,” Kerry told reporters at the State Department.
Kerry said that the US was watching those developments with caution but reiterated Washington’s support for the elected government.
“We condemn this coup and we are clear about our desire to see democracy sustained and flourish in Turkey. We want to make certain that as the response to the coup is implemented that it fully respects the democracy that we are supporting,” Kerry told reporters.
Turkey had submitted a dossier of documents about Gulen, who lives in exile in Pennsylvania, to the Justice Department. Kerry said he had not seen the documents yet and other US officials have not yet said whether they would constitute a formal extradition request.
Meanwhile, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu made a statement on Thursday that the United States had proposed setting up a commission to discuss the Gulen extradition issue and said Turkey was ready to take part.
He also said Gulen should not be allowed to flee to another country in the meantime.
The sensitivities relating to the ‘extradition issue’ has caused the media and conspiracy theorist to point figures at the US government.
The talk about US involvement in the failed coup bid, prompted to the US President Barack Obama to make a statement on Friday, where he denied any US role in Turkey’s failed coup and insisted that an extradition request for a US-based Muslim cleric accused of orchestrating the putsch would have to go through normal channels.
“Any reports that we had any previous knowledge of a coup attempt, that there was any US involvement in it, that we were anything other than entirely supportive of Turkish democracy are completely false, unequivocally false,” Obama said.
“He (Erdogan) needs to make sure that, not just he but everybody in his government, understands that those reports are completely false,” Obama added.
“Because when rumors like that start swirling around, that puts our people at risk on the ground in Turkey and it threatens what is a critical alliance and partnership between the United States and Turkey,” President Obama told reporters.
(With Agency Inputs)
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