NPR logo Media Advisory: NPR News Interview with Turkish Islamic Scholar Fethullah Gulen

Media Advisory: NPR News Interview with Turkish Islamic Scholar Fethullah Gulen

Fethullah Gulen sits in a salon at his compound in Saylorsburg, Pennsylvania. Gulen has lived in exile in the United States since the late 1990s. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan blames Gulen for last year's failed coup and is seeking his extradition. Bryan Thomas/Bryan Thomas for NPR hide caption

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Bryan Thomas/Bryan Thomas for NPR

Fethullah Gulen sits in a salon at his compound in Saylorsburg, Pennsylvania. Gulen has lived in exile in the United States since the late 1990s. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan blames Gulen for last year's failed coup and is seeking his extradition.

Bryan Thomas/Bryan Thomas for NPR

Tuesday, July 11, 2017; In an interview airing today on All Things Considered, NPR's Robert Siegel spoke with Fethullah Gulen, an Islamic scholar whom Turkish President Erdogan blames for last summer's attempted coup. Gulen has been living in exile in the U.S. since the late 1990s.

Stations and broadcast times are available at NPR.org/stations.

Excerpts from the conversation are available below, with additional reporting at NPR.org.

When asked how he responds to Erdogan's claim that he is responsible for planning the July 15, 2016 coup, Gulen said: "To this day I have stood against all coups. I suffered during the military intervention of May 27, 1960, and then again on March 12, 1971 and again on September 12, 1980, and I was targeted February 28, 1997. My respect for the military aside, I have always been against interventions. I don't know the people who attempted the July 15th coup. They might know me — they may have attended some lectures — I have no idea. But if I were to entertain that idea — if any one among those soldiers had called me and told me of their plan — I would tell them, 'You are committing murder.'"

On the future of Turkey: "I don't see a bright future for Turkey. It pains me. But I have some hope, I pray for it to be better. It is a blessed country, a NATO member, and was an EU candidate. These were things we wanted. To see progress in the democracy, to see respect for diversity of thought."

On why he lives in Pennsylvania: "I never really wanted to leave Turkey, but I had some heart problems and a cardiologist at the Mayo Clinic insisted that I come here and get treatment. So I traveled here and while I was in the hospital, a prosecutor in Turkey opened a case against me, so I was advised to remain here until things calmed down for, but they never quite did."

When asked about Turkey's request that the U.S. extradite him, he said: "I think the United States is mindful of its reputation for its democracy and rule of law, and if they are willing to risk that reputation by extraditing me based on the request and claims made by Turkey, I would never say no. I would go willingly. I am living my final years. Even if they decide to kill me or poison me or bring back the death sentence to hang me. When I was a young imam back in the day, I was present at the execution of two men, and I asked them about their final wish. If they ask me what my final wish is I would say, the person who caused all this suffering, and oppressed thousands of innocents, I want to spit in his face."

The interview can be heard in full on NPR.org. Audio excerpts from this interview must be credited to "NPR News." Broadcast outlets may use up to thirty (30) consecutive seconds of audio. Television usage of interview audio must include on-screen chyron to "NPR News." For permission to use extended clips of the audio, please contact permissions@npr.org.