The Turkish prime minister says he will seek the extradition of US-based cleric Fethullah Gulen, whom he accuses of scheming to topple his government with corruption accusations and damaging social media leaks.
Recep Tayyip Erdogan told reporters on Tuesday that a legal procedure would start for the extradition of Gulen.
On Monday, the Turkish premier said during an interview with US broadcaster PBS that he wants President Barack Obama to expel Gulen and send him back to Turkey.
Erdogan expressed hope that Washington would deliver on the issue as a “model partner,” adding, “At least they should deport him.”
Gulen’s Hizmet (Service) movement was an important supporter of Erdogan’s Justice and Development Party (AKP) when it came to power in 2002. The alliance, however, shattered after dozens of the prime minister’s political and business allies were arrested in police raids in a graft probe last December.
The scandal, which turned into a very serious challenge to Erdogan’s rule, brought down three ministers and led to a cabinet reshuffle.
Erdogan denounced the corruption scandal as well as a string of damaging leaks in the media, saying they were engineered by Gulen’s supporters to undermine his government. Gulen has repeatedly denied any involvement.
The Turkish parliament, which is dominated by the AKP, has approved a law to close a network of private preparatory schools, many of which are run by Hizmet.
Erdogan told PBS that the police raids in December were “almost a coup, a civilian coup” by the Gulen movement.
“We were aware they were trying to infiltrate various organizations, but we were not aware of their ultimate bad intentions. We realized this after a while and started to take measures,” he said.
Gulen has lived in self-imposed exile in the US state of Pennsylvania since 1999.