Turkish Cleric Fethullah Gulen. AP file photo
Erbil, Kurdistan Region – The US-based Turkish cleric Fethullah Gulen, who has been in exile in the US since 1999 has stated that he has no intentions to flee America to avoid extradition and that he is willing to be sent back to Turkey if Washington requests it.
In an interview with Reuters, Gulen, 79, who leads the Hizmet Movement in Turkey, also known as the Gulenist movement, denies allegations that he has intentions to fleeing the US.
"The rumors aren't true at all," he told Reuters.
"If the United States sees it appropriate to extradite me, I would leave (for Turkey)," he said.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has appealed to US President Donald Trump directly regarding the extradition of Gulen to Turkey and said in a statement in May that he would pursue it “to the end.”
Gulen has been accused by Erdogan and the Turkish government of orchestrating last year’s failed coup attempt in Turkey that killed more than 240 people and his network of followers were declared a terrorist organization just two months prior to the incident.
"I have never supported a coup or an ouster," Gulen stated.
Regarded as one of the most influential figures in recent Turkish politics, Gulen was once a key supporter of Erdogan in his rise to power in mid-2000.
But their relationship came to an abrupt end in 2013 after a corruption scandal involving Erdogan’s closest circles pitted the two men against one other.
Erdogan’s consolidation of power has been denounced by Gulen, who has referred to Turkey’s president as “a dictator” and has encouraged the Trump administration as well as European governments to do more to restore political freedoms in Turkey.
"(If Erdogan hears) a strong voice from the United States or European Union, European Parliament, Brussels, saying: 'What you are doing is wrong ... your judicial system is not working,' then maybe he will change his mind," the cleric stated.