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İstanbul ecumenical patriarch condemns propaganda story in pro-gov’t daily

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Ecumenical Patriarch of İstanbul Bartholomew I has condemned a story in the pro-government Akşam daily claiming Bartholomew had played a role in masterminding the failed coup attempt in Turkey on July 15, saying the daily could breed unwanted animosity and hatred among Turkish society towards the patriarchate.

In a statement on Thursday Bartholomew rejected the assertions made by Akşam and said it aims to drive a wedge between the Orthodox community in Turkey and the Turkish government.

Akşam reported in a story on Aug. 30 that US-based Turkish Islamic scholar Fethullah Gülen planned the coup along with the CIA and the Orthodox Church in İstanbul, based on an article shared by former US Ambassador to Yemen Arthur Hughes on his Facebook page.

However, Hughes, in a message to the patriarch, denied that the article belongs to him and said that “it was published by the Oriental Review website on Aug. 16.”

Despite Gülen having denied government accusations of masterminding the coup attempt in Turkey on July 15, his movement, popularly known as the Hizmet movement — a civil society initiative inspired by Gülen’s teachings promoting worldwide interfaith dialogue, peace and tolerance — is facing an intensive government witch-hunt as a large number of schools, educational institutions and private companies have been seized due to their alleged links to the movement.

The Justice and Development Party (AKP) government and President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan accuse the movement of being behind the coup attempt. Erdoğan also accuses sympathizers of the Gülen movement in the state bureaucracy of having launched a graft investigation in December 2013 that exposed the government’s involvement in corruption.

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