• U.S.-based preacher says Erdogan trying to impose one-man rule
  • Erdogan blackmailing U.S. to get Gulen extradited, imam says

The Islamic preacher Turkey blames for orchestrating the failed July 15 coup denied the allegation in a New York Times opinion piece and accused President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of using the botched putsch to impose authoritarian rule.

“Not only does Mr. Erdogan’s suggestion run afoul of everything I believe in, it is also irresponsible and wrong,” Fethullah Gulen, who has lived in the U.S. since 1999, wrote in an op-ed published on Monday, giving his previous denials a higher profile. “Throughout my life, I have publicly and privately denounced military interventions in domestic politics.”

The coup attempt by factions within the military left about 250 people dead, drove the Turkish lira to a record low and sent stock prices sinking. The government retaliated with a sweeping purge of tens of thousands of alleged Gulen followers from the military and police, civil service, business and academia. It has also sought his extradition from the U.S., where he runs a network of schools and community service programs from his Pennsylvania base.

For a QuickTake Q&A on the fight to extradite Gulen, click here

Onetime allies in a campaign to inject Islam into Turkey’s secular politics, the two men drifted apart following Erdogan’s election as prime minister in 2003, then became bitter enemies three years ago after a probe of suspected government corruption became public. The investigation implicated members of Erdogan’s closest circles, and he quickly shut it down with large-scale dismissals within the security forces and judiciary. He denied any wrongdoing and said Gulen’s followers had established a state within a state committed to toppling his government.

In his New York Times piece, Gulen accused Erdogan of turning “from democracy to despotism” in a “systematic and dangerous drive toward one-man rule.” The president, he said, is threatening to curb support for the U.S.-led coalition against Islamic State to pressure the U.S. into extraditing him, “despite a lack of credible evidence and virtually no prospect for a fair trial.”

“The United States must not accommodate an autocrat who is turning a failed putsch into a slow-motion coup of his own against constitutional government,” Gulen wrote.

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