Turkey to seek cleric Fethullah Gulen's extradition

Recep Tayyip Erdogan (left) and Fethullah Gulen (right) Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan (left) and Fethullah Gulen were once close allies

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Turkey is to start extradition proceedings against US-based cleric Fethullah Gulen, PM Recep Tayyip Erdogan has said.

Mr Gulen, a former ally of the prime minister, has been accused by Mr Erdogan of using his supporters to try to topple him.

The cleric denies mounting a campaign against him.

Turkey's government has faced a string of corruption scandals and rights groups accuse it of authoritarianism.

Speaking at parliament after meeting with deputies from his Justice and Development Party (AKP) party on Tuesday, Mr Erdogan confirmed the extradition process "will begin", reports say.

'Model partner'

The Turkish PM was speaking hours after an interview with US broadcaster PBS, in which he said he hoped the US would deport Mr Gulen and send him back to Turkey.

It was his first interview with foreign media since his party claimed victory in local elections last month.

Hizmet movement

  • Hizmet ("service") is the Turkish name of what is commonly known as the Gulen movement
  • The movement is inspired by the teachings of Islamic preacher Fethullah Gulen, who lives in exile in the US
  • Gulen is a mainstream Sunni Hanafi Muslim scholar, influenced by Anatolian Sufism
  • There is no formal structure but Hizmet followers are numbered in the millions, spread across more than 150 countries
  • First expanded into Central Asia after the USSR's demise in 1991

In the interview, Mr Erdogan said he hoped Washington, as a "model partner", would deliver on the issue.

"At least they should deport him," he added.

Mr Gulen, 74, has lived in self-imposed exile in the US state of Pennsylvania since 1997.

He has many supporters in the police and judiciary, and has denounced moves to shut down an investigation into corruption allegations levelled against several of the prime minister's allies.

His teachings have inspired the Hizmet ("Service") movement, which is believed to have millions of followers spread across over 150 countries.

Hizmet promotes a tolerant form of Islam, emphasising education, altruism and hard work.

Mr Erdogan has accused the movement of being behind a series of wiretaps and social media leaks allegedly exposing major corruption of figures with ties to the government.

Thousands of alleged Hizmet sympathisers in the police and judiciary have since been demoted or reassigned to other jobs.

Over the past year, Turkey has been convulsed by mass protests against Mr Erdogan's ten-year rule and the corruption allegations.

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