Turkey slams U.S. commission report for ‘exonerating’ Gülen

Turkish Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hami Aksoy has slammed a U.S. commission report on religious freedoms in the world over what he said was reference to a Turkish cleric accused by Ankara of orchestrating the July 2016 coup attempt as an  "innocent’’ figure, independent news site T24 reported on Saturday.

"It is a hypocritical and telling approach that those who emerge as the defenders of democracy in the world would attempt to characterise those who attempted to orchestrate a coup on a democracy in an ally country as a virtually innocent clergyman,"Aksoy said, in an apparent reference to Fethullah Gülen, a U.S.-based cleric accused by Ankara of orchestrating the July 2016 coup attempt.

The 2019 annual report of the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom raised serious concerns about the further deterioration of religious freedoms in Turkey in the year ahead as the government continues to crack down on the Gülen movement,  discrimination against the Alevi community and interference in the affairs of the Armenian and Greek Orthodox churches, among other pressing issues.

The reference to Gülen as  "A Muslim preacher and political figure,’’ in the report is a clear indication of the influence of groups and ulterior motive with which the report was penned,’’ Aksoy added. 

Ankara maintains the Gülen movement, the followers of Gülen, is a terrorist organisation.  The government of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, once allied to the movement, which it calls the Fethullah Terrorist Organisation (FETÖ), has since the coup attempt dismissed some 130,000 civil servants for alleged links to the group and thrown some 50,000 alleged members in jail.

Ankara has also sent Washington four requests for the extradition of Gülen, who has lived in the United States in self-imposed exile since 1999.

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