PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — Fethullah Gulen, the Turkish religious scholar in self-exile in Pennsylvania, opened up his doors Saturday to speak out against accusations by Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan, a former ally.
President Erdogan told the media that he believes Gulen was involved in a failed military coup in Turkey Friday. Gulen vehemently denied the suggestion.
“Their rhetoric amounts to slander and nothing more,” a translator for Gulen said.
CBS 3 got an exclusive look inside the Saylorsburg compound that the Muslim cleric has called home for the past 17 years.
Gulen conducted an interview with CBS3 and several international media outlets entirely in Turkish. It was then translated by an aide.
Gulen suggested the coup was wholly unlike previous attempts to overthrow the government and appeared to be staged.
“It does not resemble in many ways, the actual coups that took place,” the translator said. “You don’t see the high-level commanders that were involved in the previous real coups. It appears like a scenario.”
Meanwhile, outside the property, about 100 protestors, many wrapped in Turkish flags, expressed their support for President Erdogan and urged the United States to extradite Gulen.
“Hopefully, Obama will send [Gulen] back to Turkey, and he will be tried in Turkey,” one protestor said.
Gulen said he has no problem with extradition because he would ultimately be found innocent.
“If there is a forceful desire for me to leave, then you know here I will leave no problem,” the translator said. “But I don’t think that the Turkish government will be able to produce credible evidence.”
Secretary of State John Kerry said Saturday that the U.S. would entertain an extradition request, but that the Turkish government had not requested one. Kerry also said the government would also need to provide evidence to back up its claim.