The Turkish cleric who has been blamed for plotting the failed coup in Turkey, has claimed that President Erdogan staged the attempted uprising himself in order to justify civil rights clampdown.
Erdogan blamed Friday nights attempted coup on supporters of US-based cleric Fethullah Gulen, whom he has accused frequently of trying to foment an uprising in the military, media and judiciary.
In a rare and brief interview at his home on Saturday with a small group of journalists at his residence in Saylorsburg, Pennsylvania, Gülen rejected all accusations that he was behind the coup attempt.
He said that Erdogan likely staged the attempted uprising himself in order to justify a crackdown on political opponents.
He said: “There is a slight chance, there is a possibility that it could be a staged coup. It could be meant for court accusations and associations.
“It appears that they have no tolerance for any movement, any group, any organisation that is not under their total control.”
Authorities began a major crackdown in the judiciary of those suspected of links to Mr Gulen, removing from their posts and ordering the detention of nearly 3,000 prosecutors and judges on Saturday, including from top courts.
Today, justice minister Bekir Bozdag announced 6,000 people have been detained over the ill-fated coup.
The cleric condemned the attempted coup and said he played no role in it.
In a statement, Mr Gulen, who lives in Pennsylvania, said: “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.
Mr Erdogan called on the United States to extradite Mr Gulen.
Prime Minister Binali Yildirim said any country that stands by Mr Gulen will be considered at war with Turkey, and Mr Erdogan urged Washington to deport the cleric.
US Secretary of State John Kerry said Washington was willing to help Turkey as it tries to identify those involved, but made clear it would act only if there was evidence against Mr Gulen.
Mr Kerry also warned that public suggestions of a US role were “utterly false” and harmful to relations after Turkey’s labour minister suggested there had been American involvement in the plot.
Mr Erdogan, who had been holidaying on the southwest coast when the coup attempt was launched, flew into Istanbul before dawn on Saturday and told thousands of flag-waving supporters at the airport that the government remained at the helm.
A polarising figure whose Islamist-rooted ideology lies at odds with supporters of modern Turkey’s secular principles, Mr Erdogan said the plotters had tried to attack him in the resort town of Marmaris.