Mon, Jul 18, 2016 - Page 1 News List

US rejects claims of involvement in failed Turkey coup

The Guardian

Turkey’s attempted coup has increased friction between the Turkish and US governments, with Washington rejecting claims that it was somehow involved in the failed putsch.

The US Department of State released a statement denying any link to the events, after the Turkish government, a nominal US ally, blamed the coup on an exiled Turkish dissident who has been given sanctuary in Pennsylvania.

“Public insinuations or claims about any role by the United States in the failed coup attempt are utterly false and harmful to our bilateral relations,” the State Department said, summarizing a message given by US Secretary of State John Kerry to his Turkish counterpart.

The spat was sparked after the Turkish government claimed the coup was planned by followers of Fethullah Gulen, a US-based Muslim scholar and dissident. Gulen denies the charge, but Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has called on the US to extradite him — arguing that Turkey has extradited plenty of terror suspects in the opposite direction.

“I say if we are strategic partners, then you should bring about our request,” Erdogan said in a speech on Saturday.

In response, Kerry pointedly said that Turkey should produce evidence of Gulen’s guilt, amid concerns that Erdogan was using the aftermath of the coup to settle scores with enemies both at home and abroad.

“We would invite the government of Turkey, as we always do, to present us with any legitimate evidence that withstands scrutiny,” Kerry was quoted as saying at a news conference.

Separately, airstrikes on Syria-based outposts of the Islamic State were put on hold after it was claimed that a group of Turkish soldiers at the US airbase in Turkey were involved in the botched coup.

A Turkish official said a Turkish refueling airplane at Incirlik Air Base, which is used by the US to mount its raids over the border in Syria, was used by the rebels on Friday night.

“A small group of Turkish troops stationed at Incirlik supported [the] coup attempt,” he added.

There was no suggestion that US troops at the base were in any way involved.

Both leaders of Muslim movements, Erdogan and Gulen once had a common cause in Turkey, partnering against secular opponents in the Turkish state.

However, in recent years Erdogan has accused Gulen of remotely orchestrating a campaign to oust him from power. While Gulen went into exile in 1999 to flee Erdogan’s predecessors, Erdogan turned on Gulen in 2014, when an arrest warrant was issued for Gulen for allegedly running “a terrorist group.”

Gulen denies his supporters were behind the weekend’s events in Turkey, and the plotters themselves said they were fighting to protect Turkey’s secular traditions.

Erdogan has been criticized for eroding the secular mentality of the Turkish state and undermining Turkish democracy.

This has not stopped Erdogan from using the coup to crack down on his opponents.

In a speech on Saturday, he said the coup was “a gift from God,” because it would allow him to “cleanse the army.”

At least 2,800 officers and soldiers were arrested on Saturday as the purge began, including five generals. One was Erdal Ozturk, the commander of Turkey’s third army, who could now face the death penalty after Erdogan’s allies called for a change to the constitutions to allow the execution of coup plotters.

Erdogan’s purge continued in other state institutions, with more than 2,700 judges fired from their posts.

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