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Turkish interior minister says US role in July 15 coup is ‘crystal clear’

People take cover as soldiers and police shoot at each other on the Bosphorus bridge in Istanbul on July 16, 2016, following an attempt by discontented soldiers to seize power from President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan that claimed more than 240 lives. After the bloodiest challenge to his 13-year autocratic rule, Erdoğan urged his backers to stay on the streets to prevent a possible "flare-up" of yesterday's chaos in the strategic NATO member of 80 million people. BULENT KILIC / AFP

Turkish Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu has claimed that the US administration was behind a coup attempt in Turkey on July 15, 2016 which took the lives of more than 250 people and that the faith-based Gülen movement carried out the failed putsch in collaboration with the US, according to statements published by the Hürriyet daily on Thursday.

“It is crystal clear that the US was behind the July 15 [coup attempt]. And it was Fetö that carried out the coup attempt on their orders,” Soylu said, using a derogatory term coined by Turkey’s Justice and Development Party (AKP) government to refer to the movement as a terrorist organization.

The movement, inspired by the views of US-based Islamic scholar Fethullah Gülen, strongly denies involvement in the abortive putsch and any terrorist activity.

Soylu was elaborating on remarks he made during a TV program on Haber Global with journalist Candaş Tolga Işık on Tuesday night that sparked a debate about the real masterminds of the coup attempt and the government narrative about it.

In sharp contrast to the narrative of the AKP government regarding the masterminds of July 15, Soylu said on Tuesday that it was not the Gülen movement that organized the abortive putsch but hinted that the US was behind it.

Pro-government journalist Nedim Şener dedicated his column in Hürriyet to Soylu’s statements on Thursday.

The interior minister said it was not the first time he had mentioned the US role in July 15, recalling that he had even talked about it hours after the coup attempt in a statement to TV stations on July 16, 2016.

“Back then, I had said, ‘The US was behind this coup attempt,” he noted. The minister said the US being behind coups or coup attempts in Turkey in the past such as the 1960 and 1980 military coups as well as the military intervention of Feb. 28, 1997 came to light years later.

“Instead of waiting 20 or 30 years, I made a note to history saying that the US was behind this coup. I said this before even 24 hours had passed after the coup attempt and am not saying it [for the first time] today. Then, I became interior minister. After that, I saw Fetö was wherever the US had influence,” said Soylu.

He was appointed interior minister by President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan on Aug. 31, 2016.

Following the coup attempt, which was suppressed overnight, the Turkish government and President Erdoğan pinned the blame on the Gülen movement, describing it as a terrorist organization.

Fethullah Gülen, who inspired the movement, strongly denied having any role in the failed coup and called for an international investigation into it, but President Erdoğan — calling the coup attempt “a gift from God” — and the government initiated a widespread purge aimed at cleansing sympathizers of the movement from within state institutions, dehumanizing its popular figures and putting them in custody.

In a statement to German news magazine Der Spiegel in 2017, Bruno Kahl, the head of Germany’s BND foreign intelligence agency, said the Turkish government had failed to convince BND that Gülen was behind the 2016 failed coup in Turkey.

“Turkey has tried to convince us of that at every level, but so far it has not succeeded,” Kahl said back then.

Following the coup attempt the Turkish government also removed more than 130,000 civil servants from their jobs due to alleged Gülen links.

According to a statement from Interior Minister Soylu in November, a total of 292,000 people have been detained while 96,000 others have been jailed due to alleged links to the Gülen movement since the failed coup. The minister said there were 25,655 people in Turkey’s prisons who were jailed due to links to the Gülen movement.

In addition to the thousands who were jailed, scores of other Gülen movement followers had to flee Turkey to avoid the government crackdown.

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