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Muslim Cleric Gulen Denies Involvement in Attempted Turkish Coup


U.S.-based cleric Fethullah Gulen, whose followers Turkey blames for a failed coup, is shown in still image taken from video, speaks to journalists at his home in Saylorsburg, Pa., July 16, 2016.

A day after an attempted coup began in Turkey, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has accused an exiled Muslim cleric who once was one of his close allies of organizing the plot, and he demanded the cleric's extradition from the United States.

Speaking at an impromptu news conference from his home in the remote village of Saylorsburg, in eastern Pennsylvania, Fethullah Gulen stressed that he left Turkey 15 years ago and no longer knew who his supporters were in the country, but that he was unaware of any role in the coup attempt Friday by his followers.

Gulen told VOA's Turkish Service Erdogan had falsely accused him, and that he wouldn't have returned to Turkey even if the coup had succeeded.

He also suggested in the interview that the ruling party staged the attempted coup.

WATCH: Fethullah Gulen speaks at impromptu news conference

Muslim Cleric Gulen Denies Erdogan Claims of Coup Involvement
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"When you look at the sequence, the process of this coup, it does not resemble in any way the actual coups that took place," Gulen said through an interpreter.

"You don't see the high-level commanders that were involved in previous coups. Various people have talked about this possibility. We also see their rhetoric right after the coup -- they called it a gift from God," he said, adding the government said they were in a better position to eliminate people from the military.

"I cannot say this is what happened, that would be slander," Gulen said. "I definitely cannot say this, but this is one of the possibilities."

Also, Gulen said that Turkey is going through hard times, and that people are experiencing significant levels of discomfort.

He said his message to the Turkish people is to remain calm and retain their objectivity. "God will reveal the true nature of events," Gulen said.

He also said the Turkish society has been polarized significantly in the past few years. "We need to heal this polarization," he said.

VOA Turkish reporters Mehmet Toroglu and Tezcan Taskiran contributed to this story