TURKEY COUP ATTEMPT AFTERMATH.jpg
Photograph: EPA/SEDAT SUNA

Fethullah Gulen, an exiled religious leader blamed by President Recep Tayyip Erdogan for this month's coup attempt in Turkey, said in an interview Friday that the United States will not hand him over to Ankara.

"It is very clear that this demand is politically motivated, and I am confident the facts will bear that out. I have repeatedly denounced the coup attempt and emphatically reject any involvement therein," Gulen told Italy's Corriere della Sera newspaper.

The preacher's followers in Turkey are being purged from state institutions. So far, 66,000 alleged Gulenists have been suspended from the civil service.

Interior Minister Efkan Ala said more than 49,000 people had their passports revoked. He confirmed more than 18,000 people have been detained since the bloody July 15 coup attempt and 9,677 are under arrest.

A government official said 3,500 of those detained were later released.

Among those for whom detention orders have been issued are dozens of journalists and media workers.

A prosecutor asked for 20 of the 21 journalists who have been detained to be formally arrested, while one was freed with restrictions, broadcaster NTV reported.

The government also canceled 330 press cards since the coup effort, state broadcaster TRT reported.

Amnesty International this week warned of torture in Turkish prisons and some of the top officials arrested - including about 150 generals - were paraded in front of cameras showing signs of severe beatings.

Speaking from his rural home in Pennsylvania, Gulen noted that the US has so far not confirmed receiving any extradition requests from Turkey. "I am not worried and will cooperate with the US authorities," he added.

Gulen was a long-time ally of Erdogan, but the two had a public falling-out amid disputes over domestic and foreign policy over the past several years. In the Corriere interview, the preacher said power had gone to the Turkish leader's head.

"It appears that after staying in power for too long, President Erdogan and his party are suffering from power poisoning," he said. "I can see now that I gave them too much credit. I regret having had faith that they were sincere in what they promised to deliver."

The 75-year-old insisted he had nothing to do with the failed putsch that left more than 260 people dead and triggered a harsh response from Erdogan and his allies. About 66,000 civil servants have been suspended, and more than 8,100 people are under arrest.

"If individuals who read my works, listened to my talks or sympathized with my worldview were involved in the coup, then that would be a betrayal of my core values," Gulen said.

He confirmed his support for Turkey's European Union bid, which is at risk of being suspended by Brussels if Erdogan goes ahead with reintroducing the death penalty.

"I believe Turkey’s membership in the EU is the best way to ensure Turkey remains democratic and that fundamental rights and freedoms are protected," Gul said. "Europe does have leverage to influence Turkey in a positive way."

Turkey's Supreme Military Council meet this week for the first time since the coup attempt. The chief of staff, Hulusi Akar, kept his post. Some other top generals, from those who were not purged, were shifted.

Turkey declared a state of emergency after the coup, allowing Erdogan and the government to rule by decree. Opposition groups have expressed concerns about abuse of power, noting the president had already been leaning towards authoritarianism.

Latest news

Trump administration reverses transgender bathroom protections

The Trump administration on Wednesday withdrew Obama-era guidance about the use of school and university bathrooms by transgender students, local media reported.

Several Dakota Access Pipeline protesters arrested as deadline passes

Several people at a camp protesting against a controversial oil pipeline in the US state of North Dakota were arrested Wednesday after a deadline to vacate the land passed, local media reported.

Germany deports 18 rejected asylum seekers to Afghanistan

A Kabul-bound plane with 18 Afghan migrants on board took off from Munich Airport late Wednesday, its passengers becoming the third group of rejected asylum seekers to be deported by German authorities back to Afghanistan.

New Romanian justice minister named after anti-corruption protests

Romanian Prime Minister Sorin Grindeanu has named a former judge to be the country's next justice minister, after the previous office holder resigned under pressure from mass anti-corruption protests.

Le Pen's chief of staff indicted in European Parliament jobs probe

The chief of staff of Marine Le Pen, the far-right candidate for president in upcoming French elections, was indicted Wednesday over allegations of irregular reimbursements from the European Parliament, a judicial source told dpa.

Montenegrin police extradites Miodrag Jovic to Croatia

Montenegrin police reported on Wednesday that they extradited to Croatia Miodrag Jovic (48) from Glina, after whom Interpol Zagreb issued an arrest warrant.

Croatian minister attends CoMoCoSEE conference in Albania

Culture Minister Nina Obuljen Korzinek participated in a third conference of the Council of Ministers of Culture of South-Eastern Europe (CoMoCoSEE) that took place in Tirana on February 21-22.

New Somali president asks al-Shabaab to surrender to 'help' country

Somalia's newly elected President Mohamed Abdullahi Farmajo asked Islamist terrorist group al-Shabaab to surrender in order "to help rebuild" the conflict-ridden East African nation.

Serbia's EU negotiator says minority rights neglected

The head of the Serbia's European Union accession negotiation team, Tanja Miscevic, said in Novi Sad on Wednesday that minority rights had been neglected for many years and added that positive results in that regard cannot be achieved over night, the Beta news agency has reported. 

Scientists: Nearby star's 7 rocky planets are "best bet" for life

New analysis of telescope data shows a dwarf star just 40 light years from Earth has at least seven apparently rocky planets with potential to harbour water, an international team of scientists announced Wednesday.

Croatian PM receives EIB Vice-President

Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic met on Wednesday with European Investment Bank (EIB) Vice-President Dario Scannapieco for talks on the bank's contribution to a new investment cycle in Croatia and its support to the Croatian government to implement key projects, a press release from the government's office said.

Bomb explodes outside police officer's home in Northern Ireland

A bomb exploded outside a police officer's home in Northern Ireland on Wednesday but there were no immediate reports of casualties.