RELIGION

Turkish committee: US-based cleric was behind failed coup

The head of a Turkish parliamentary investigative committee said Friday there was no question that U.S.-based Muslim cleric Fethullah Gulen was behind last year's failed military coup.

The ruling party-dominated committee investigating the July coup attempt had "concrete and solid" evidence pointing to Gulen's involvement, lawmaker Resat Petek said. He was speaking at a news conference to present the findings of a report that is expected to be published after opposition members lodge their views and possible objections.

"We have reached information and documents that leave no space for hesitation," Petek told reporters, adding that the conclusion about Gulen's role was based on information that included confessions, details of communications between alleged coup-plotters and witness accounts.

Gulen, 76, a former ally and now foe of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, has condemned the coup attempt and denied he was involved. He acknowledged that some of his supporters may have participated in the uprising.

The legislator called Gulen a "fraudster" who allegedly had been preparing for a takeover for 50 years. Petek also described the government's lack of advance knowledge about the coup plot as an "intelligence flaw."

The committee was set up two months after the attempted coup. It has been criticized for failing to question Turkey's military chief, who was taken hostage for several hours during the coup attempt, as well as the chief of the National Intelligence Agency.. They are believed to hold crucial information on the failed uprising.

Gulen ran a network of schools, dormitories and media organizations in Turkey and abroad. The government says his followers have infiltrated the military, police, judiciary and several ministries in Turkey over the years.

The country has labeled the preacher's movement a terror organization and is seeking his extradition so he can be tried in Turkey. More than 47,000 people have been arrested for alleged links to the coup, and more than 10,000 have been fired from government jobs.

The government has faced international condemnation for cracking down on tens of thousands of "ordinary" people suspected of ties to Gulen while allegedly ignoring possible followers within President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's ruling party.

Petek dodged questions about possible disparate treatment, claiming that the Gulen movement had tried "to be close" to every party that came to power over the decades.

"It is understood that they chose to use politics to infiltrate high state organs by being close to the political power and ruling parties," Petek said.

The legislator showed a document dating back to 1967 that allegedly showed the preacher had donated money to Turkey's pro-secular main opposition party. That party said Friday that the document was false and designed to discredit the opposition.