A Muslim cleric accused by Turkey’s president, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, of orchestrating a coup from his compound in the mountains of Pennsylvania is denouncing the uprising.
“I condemn, in the strongest terms, the attempted military coup in Turkey. Government should be won through a process of free and fair elections, not force,” the cleric, Fethullah Gulen, said in a statement issued through a New York-based non-profit organization called the Alliance for Shared Values.
“As someone who suffered under multiple military coups during the past five decades, it is especially insulting to be accused of having any link to such an attempt. I categorically deny such accusations,” Gulen added.
The statement came hours after Erdoğan blamed the 74-year-old Gulen for masterminding an attempted government overthrow.
“This is not a country that can be run from Pennsylvania,” said Erdoğan in a statement, making a clear reference to the reclusive imam.
Gulen has lived in the Pocono mountains since 1999 when he went into self-imposed exile. From his compound there, he oversees a vast network of non-profit groups, media outlets and charter schools dedicated to his movement, known as Hizmet.
Gulen and Erdoğan, both Islamists, were once allies. But their relationship has soured in recent years. When Erdoğan was elected president in 2014 he asked President Obama to extradite Gulen back to Turkey to face trial for attempting to undermine the government.
Erdoğan often blames Gulen and his followers — Gulenists — for threatening the government. Erdoğan has also cracked down on reporters working with Gulen-linked media outlets.
A faction within the Turkish military carried out attacks from jets and helicopters against government buildings in Istanbul and Ankara, the NATO nation’s capital. Dozens of soldiers, police and civilians died in the skirmish.
The attempted overthrow forced Erdoğan, who had been away from the capital on vacation, to attempt to seek asylum in Germany. He was denied. But after pro-Erdoğan forces tamped down the uprising he was able to land in Istanbul.
President Obama and Sec. of State John Kerry offered support for Erdoğan’s regime.
“The President and Secretary agreed that all parties in Turkey should support the democratically-elected Government of Turkey, show restraint, and avoid any violence or bloodshed,” the White House said in a statement.
Hillary Clinton also issued a statement supporting Erdoğan’s regime.
In a statement earlier on Friday, the Alliance for Shared Values, which recently hired the Clinton-connected lobbying firm, the Podesta Group, called Erdoğan’s statement blaming Gulen for the coup “highly irresponsible.”
“We have consistently denounced military interventions in domestic politics,” a statement from the group reads.
“We condemn any military intervention in domestic politics of Turkey.”
The apparent failure of the coup could complicate the U.S.-Turkey relationship because of Gulen’s residence here, some experts asserted.
Ian Bremmer, the president of the Eurasia Group, predicted that a failed coup would create an “unprecedented…crisis.”
This article has been updated with new developments and a statement from Fethullah Gulen.