An Islamic scholar claimed to be behind last year’s Turkish coup attempt has rubbished the claims.
In a rare interview with the media, Fethullah Gulen who is currently living in exile in the US said he has been against all coups since 1960 to date and does not know why he is being targeted by the President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s regime.
“I have always been against interventions. I don’t know the people who attempted the July 15 coup.
They might know me, they may have attended some lectures…I have no idea,” he said, in an interview with America’s National Public Radio (NPR).
A section of the Turkish military attempted to overthrow Erdogan’s government on July 15 last year, but it was thwarted after a day.
By then they had caused destruction such as bombing government buildings.
Since then, tens of thousands of people have been arrested in connection with the failed coup while others serving in government and state positions have been fired.
“If any one among those soldiers had called me and told me of their plan, I would tell them, “You are committing murder,” Mr Gulen said.
He added that he is ready to face trial should the US government decide to fulfil Turkey’s request of extraditing him, though he doubts if Washington can put its reputation for democracy at risk.
“I am living my final years, even if they decide to kill me or poison me or bring back the death sentence to hang me.
“If they ask me what my final wish is, I would say the person who caused all this suffering and oppressed thousands of innocents, I want to spit in his face,” he said.
The preacher is the founder of the Gulen Movement in Turkey, a religious and social organisation which has otherwise been listed as a terror organisation by the government, placing him in the country’s ‘most wanted terrorist’ list.
Meanwhile, European Commission chief Jean-Claude Juncker on Sunday urged Turkey to uphold democratic values if it hopes to join the European Union, after a year of purges following a coup bid.
Mr Juncker’s comments came a day after Turkish President Recept Tayyip Erdogan gave a hardline speech to parliament on the anniversary of the attempted coup, following mass rallies in Ankara and Istanbul.
“Whoever wants to join the European Union is joining a union of values,” Mr Juncker wrote in an op-ed for German weekly Bild Sonntag.
“Europe’s hand remains outstretched,” he added, but it expects that “Turkey too should clearly show its European colours and emphatically take basic European values to heart.”
In his speech, President Erdogan vowed to sign any bill lawmakers pass on reintroducing the death penalty — seen as a red line that would shut down Turkey’s hopes of joining the EU.
“We will chop off the heads of those traitors” he told a crowd of hundreds of thousands in Istanbul.
The European Commission is in charge of accession negotiations for prospective new members, with Turkey’s dossier largely frozen since last July’s violence.
In his article, Mr Juncker warned in particular against the detention without trial of journalists including Deniz Yucel of German daily Die Welt.