Turkey asks U.S. to deport Pa. cleric

PM accuses him of starting a ‘coup’

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ANKARA, Turkey -- Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has urged the United States to deport a Eastern Pennsylvania-based cleric he accuses of instigating a graft probe to try to topple his government, and vowed to seek the preacher's extradition.

Cleric Fethullah Gulen and his followers in Saylorsburg, Monroe County, north of Allentown, should be expelled or handed over to Turkish authorities, Mr. Erdogan said in an interview with the "Charlie Rose" program broadcast Tuesday on Bloomberg TV.

The prime minister told reporters in Ankara, the capital, that Turkey would begin taking legal steps to seek Mr. Gulen's extradition, NTV television reported.

"It's sad for us to see such a group can exist in the U.S.," Mr. Erdogan said. Turkey has "expectations from our model partner."

Mr. Erdogan's talk of hauling Mr. Gulen back to Turkey against his will raised the stakes in his faceoff with his former ally. It also threatened to create new frictions with the United States, which has been critical of Mr. Erdogan's response to the corruption investigation, including curbs on access to social media sites and new powers for intelligence agencies.

Mr. Erdogan's government says the influential cleric has built a "parallel state" in Turkey, placing followers within the upper echelons of the judiciary and police. A slew of corruption allegations against Mr. Erdogan and his closest allies, including former cabinet ministers, were engineered by the Gulen movement as part of an attempted "coup," the premier has said.

Mr. Erdogan has parried the accusations by purging prosecutors and firing or reassigning thousands of police officers alleged to be Gulen followers. The government temporarily shut down Twitter services after purported recordings of corruption claims against Mr. Erdogan, members of his family and political allies appeared on social media sites. The country's top court later forced the government to lift the ban.

Turks who accuse Mr. Erdogan of becoming increasingly authoritarian took to the streets last year after an environmental protest in Istanbul snowballed into a nationwide anti-government movement. Last year's events bear similarities to unrest that has roiled Egypt and Ukraine, and may have been provoked by some groups in the West, including the United States, Mr. Erdogan told Mr. Rose. "It's obvious that they are managed from a certain center, and we have documents to show this," he said.

The U.S. administration is not part of the "provocation," the Turkish premier said, without clarifying which U.S. groups he was referring to.

Mr. Erdogan said he was thankful to President Barack Obama for trying to mend Turkey's ties with Israel, strained after nine Turks were killed in an Israeli raid on a flotilla bound for the Gaza Strip in 2010. Turkey and Israel "have come to an agreement" on compensation for those killed in the raid, he said.

The nations may "move toward a process of normalization" after a similar agreement is reached on delivering humanitarian aid to the Palestinians in the future, he said, predicting that it could be a matter of days or weeks.


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