US-based preacher Fethullah Gulen, whom Turkey accuses of orchestrating the July 15 attempted coup, says Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan was in fact behind it.

So much evidence had come to light in recent days that it was a certainty, he said in an interview with dpa, Germany’s Die Zeit newspaper and the Spanish newspaper El Pais at his compound outside Saylorsburg, Pennsylvania on Thursday.

Erdogan had planned the coup a year in advance and had only had to wait for the right opportunity, said Gulen, who has lived in exile in the United States since 1999. 

Earlier this month the Turkish government formally requested the extradition of the 78-year-old cleric, who is public enemy number one in Turkey.

In the aftermath of the attempted coup, Erdogan is using it to solidify his power, according to Gulen.

He said that on the night of July 15, Erdogan had laughed as his plane landed in Istanbul after members of the military launched the coup.

“It is happening according to the plan. He declared that at the airport,” Gulen said through an interpreter. 

He called the coup a "gift from God,” saying Turkey "needed something like this" in order to go beyond the law and persecute more people. 

Turkey's chief of general staff and the head of intelligence "knew all what was happening," he added.

Gulen said he had asked for an international commission with experts from the United States, Germany, the Netherlands and other countries to look into the attempted coup and its circumstances.

The Turkish government has ignored his recommendation, he said, adding that if such a commission found any evidence that he was directly involved in the attempted coup, “I can live with the results.”

He said he didn’t believe that Turkey would anytime soon fulfill the requirements that have been laid down for it to join the European Union, and he said the country should be threatened with international sanctions.

“Other than sanctions ... they're not going to come out of their own way. They are not going to give up what they already have done.”

Since the coup more than 50,000 people including civil servants, judges, members of the armed forces and police have been fired and 20,000 people have been arrested.

Government critics say the crackdown has spread beyond the perpetrators and is turning on rivals of Erdogan and his inner circle.

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