A Turkish court has sentenced a nephew of Fethullah Gulen, a religious leader accused by Ankara of orchestrating a 2016 coup attempt, to seven-and-a-half years in prison on terrorism-related charges.
Anadolu state news agency said on Tuesday that Selman Gulen was sentenced for being a member of a “terrorist” organisation. The prosecutor had asked for seven-and-a-half years to 15 years.
Selman Gulen told the court in the capital, Ankara, that he had met his uncle only once in his life, as he denied the allegations. He charged that the court was sentencing him only because he was a relative of Gulen and demanded his acquittal.
Turkey blames Fethullah Gulen and his FETO movement for a coup attempt on July 15, 2016, by a faction in the military.
Gulen has denied any role in the failed coup, which left more than 250 people dead and 2,000 injured. Once an ally of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, he lives in self-imposed exile in the United States.
Turkey also considers Gulen’s movement to be a “terrorist” group and has arrested thousands of people with alleged connections to him.
Turkish Defence Minister Hulusi Akar told parliament on Monday that 15,154 members of the armed forces have been sacked since the failed coup for their links to FETO. According to Anadolu, 326 of them have since got their jobs back.
On Tuesday, 70 people were arrested for their alleged connections to the movement in operations across Turkey, Anadolu reported. They included soldiers on active duty, former police officers and a medical student.
Last month, Turkey’s interior ministry said nearly 218,000 people have been held for their alleged links to the abortive putsch.
Turkey has long demanded the extradition of Gulen, who lives in the US state of Pennsylvania. Washington has so far said that Ankara has not presented sufficient evidence against him.
On Sunday, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said that Erdogan and US President Donald Trump discussed the extradition issue on the sidelines of the recent G20 summit in Buenos Aires.
“In Argentina, Trump told Erdogan they were working on extraditing (Fethullah) Gulen and other people,” Cavusoglu said.
On Monday, a senior White House official said that Trump did not commit during the meeting with Erdogan to extradite Gulen.
A day later, White House spokesperson Sarah Sanders said that the US president had told his Turkish counterpart he would “look at” the question of extraditing the religious leader.
“The only thing he said is we would take a look at it but nothing committal at all in the process,” said Sanders, speaking at the White House.
“Nothing further at this point beyond that … nothing committal at all in that process.”