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Exiled cleric condemns Turkish crackdown on his supporters

Associated Press Associated Press 15/09/2016

PHILADELPHIA — An Islamic cleric whom Turkey accuses of masterminding July's abortive coup again condemned a Turkish government crackdown on his supporters, saying Thursday that his "heart is aching."

In videotaped remarks to the World Affairs Council of Philadelphia, Fethullah Gulen said the Turkish government is using the attempted coup to justify persecuting his followers, who he said are being "subjected to oppression and tyranny, molestation and unlawful acquisition of their private properties."

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan blames Gulen for the failed uprising, which left at least 270 people dead, and said he considers him and his followers to be terrorists. This week, Turkey sent the United States a formal request demanding the arrest of Gulen, who lives in self-imposed exile on a compound in the Pocono Mountains.

Gulen has denied any involvement in the coup attempt. He said Thursday the crackdown on his supporters will be recorded as "dark pages in world history."

The Turkish government declared a state of emergency after the attempted coup, rounding up tens of thousands of Gulen's followers, firing government employees it suspects of having ties to Gulen and closing or seizing thousands of institutions, including schools.

The crackdown has raised concerns among Turkey's Western allies and human rights organizations, which have urged the government to show restraint.

Gulen said he thinks international human rights organizations, intellectuals and legal organizations "may react and push states to act, saying enough is enough."

"Perhaps in realizing that they cannot afford to be completely cut off from the world, Turkish leaders might change course," he said.

Gulen's movement runs charities, schools and businesses worldwide. Turkey has designated the movement a terrorist organization.

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