ISTANBUL – A retired CIA analyst has dismissed Turkish accusations that he was involved in last year's failed coup, saying he was a "choice target" following a warrant for his detention.
Graham Fuller, an ex-vice chairman of the CIA's National Intelligence Council, told The Associated Press he was accused in the Turkish press of being the "CIA handler" of a U.S.-based Muslim cleric.
Turkey blames Fethullah Gulen for the 2016 coup attempt. The cleric denies the allegations.
In an emailed statement late Friday, Fuller rejected claims he was in Turkey "directing the coup attempt." He said he was speaking to a group of 100 people in Canada that night and hasn't been to Turkey in five years.
On Friday, Turkey's official news agency said prosecutors ordered the detention warrant on charges of espionage, violating the constitution and "attempting to overthrow the Turkish government."
Anadolu Agency said the prosecutors suspect Fuller of being in contact with people accused of participating in the coup attempt.
Fuller served in Turkey in the 1960s and said he met the cleric only once 15 years ago in Istanbul, after he had already retired from the CIA. He said he was "impressed" by the movement's "progressive and tolerant visions of Islam."
Turkish officials have accused Fuller of being instrumental in obtaining permanent U.S. residency for Gulen.
The former CIA analyst said Turkish suspicions that the agency may be behind the botched coup were not unfounded because of past U.S. government practices.
He expressed serious doubt, however, over any CIA involvement in last year's "pathetic, ill-conceived and amateurish, coup attempt." He also expressed doubt over Gulen "ordering" the coup and said many in European intelligence shared the view.
On July 15, 2016, a group of Turkish soldiers using tanks, warplanes and helicopters launched a plot to overthrow Turkey's president and government. Some 250 people were killed resisting the coup. At least 34 coup plotters also died.
More than 50,000 were arrested and 100,000 dismissed in a crackdown afterward.