Main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu on Sunday called on Turkish Islamic scholar Fethullah Gülen, who is accused by the Turkish government of masterminding a failed coup attempt in July, to return to Turkey and stand trial, adding that if he refuses to, he will be considered guilty.
Speaking at a groundbreaking ceremony in İstanbul, Kılıçdaroğlu told the Islamic cleric: “If you are innocent, come to Turkey and stand trial here. If you don’t come, then you are guilty.”
Turkish authorities claim Gülen, who lives in Pennsylvania, was the mastermind behind a violent coup attempt that killed over 240 people and injured a thousand others on July 15.
Gülen strongly denies any involvement.
The Turkish government and President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan have designated the faith-based Gülen movement, inspired by Gülen and operating charities, schools and businesses around the world, as a terrorist organization and have launched a widespread crackdown on suspected members since the failed coup.
President Erdoğan and other Turkish authorities have repeatedly called on the US administration to extradite Gülen to Turkey, however, US officials say only a US court will make this decision based on evidence.
Although Gülen called for an international investigation into the coup attempt, Erdoğan — calling the coup attempt “a gift from God” — and the government launched a widespread purge aimed at cleansing sympathizers of the movement from within state institutions, dehumanizing its popular figures and putting them in custody.
A report published by the German Focus magazine in August claimed that Turkish government members decided to put the blame for the coup attempt on Gülen half an hour after the uprising and agreed to begin a purge of Gülen followers the next day.