Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan urged the U.S. to deport a U.S.-based cleric he accuses of instigating a graft probe to try to topple his government, and vowed to seek the preacher’s extradition.
Pennsylvania-based cleric Fethullah Gulen and his followers should be expelled or handed over to Turkish authorities, Erdogan said in an interview with the “Charlie Rose” program, to be broadcast today on Bloomberg TV. He told reporters in Ankara that Turkey would begin taking legal steps to seek Gulen’s extradition, NTV television reported.
“It’s sad for us to see such a group can exist in the U.S.,” Erdogan said. Turkey has “expectations from our model partner.”
Erdogan’s talk about hauling Gulen back to Turkey against his will raised the stakes in his faceoff with his former ally. It also threatened to create new frictions with the U.S., which has been critical of Erdogan’s response to the corruption investigation, including curbs on access to social media sites and new powers for intelligence agencies.
Erdogan’s government says the influential cleric has built a “parallel state” in Turkey, placing followers within the upper echelons of the judiciary and police. A slew of corruption allegations against Erdogan and his closest allies, including former cabinet ministers, were engineered by the Gulen movement as part of an attempted “coup,” the premier has said.
Erdogan has parried the accusations by purging prosecutors and firing or reassigning thousands of police officers alleged to be Gulen followers. The government temporarily shut down Twitter services after purported recordings of corruption claims against Erdogan, members of his family and political allies appeared on social media sites. The country’s top court later forced the government to lift the ban.
The European Union, which Turkey wants to join, accused Erdogan’s government of violating personal liberties. German President Joachim Gauck said yesterday in Ankara that he was concerned by the Turkish government’s violent crackdown on street protests and decision to grant intelligence agencies more powers. Erdogan lashed out at Gauck for what he called “intolerable” meddling in Turkey’s domestic affairs.
“It looks like Gauck still sees himself as a priest,” Erdogan said today of the former Luterhan pastor in a televised speech from parliament. “Keep your advice to yourself.”
Turks who accuse Erdogan of becoming increasingly authoritarian took to the streets last year after an environmental protest in Istanbul snowballed into a nationwide anti-government movement.
Last year’s events bear similarities to unrest that has roiled Egypt and Ukraine, and may have been provoked by some groups in the West, including the U.S., Erdogan told Charlie Rose.
“It’s obvious that they are managed from a certain center and we have documents to show this,” he said.
The U.S. administration is not part of the “provocation,” the Turkish premier said, without clarifying which U.S. groups he was referring to.
Erdogan said he was thankful to U.S. President Barack Obama for trying to mend Turkey’s ties with Israel, strained after nine Turks were killed in an Israeli raid on a flotilla bound for the Gaza Strip in 2010.
Turkey and Israel “have come to an agreement” on compensation for those killed in the raid, he said. The nations may “move toward a process of normalization” after a similar agreement is reached on delivering humanitarian aid to the Palestinians in the future, he said, predicting it could be a matter of days or weeks.