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US says claims of its involvement in 2016 coup attempt in Turkey ‘wholly false’

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The United States has denied claims raised by a Turkish minister suggesting its involvement in a failed coup attempt in Turkey on July 15, 2016, describing the allegations “wholly false.”

“The United States had no involvement in the 2016 attempted coup in Turkey and promptly condemned it. Recent assertions to the contrary made by senior Turkish officials are wholly false,” said a statement on Thursday released by Ned Price, spokesperson for the US State Department.

Turkish Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu claimed first on a TV program on Tuesday night and then in remarks published in the Hürriyet daily on Thursday that that the US administration was behind the failed coup, 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.

“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 told Hürriyet, 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.

The US State Department’s statement also said, “These remarks and other unfounded and irresponsible claims of US responsibility for events in Turkey are inconsistent with Turkey’s status as a NATO Ally and strategic partner of the United States.“

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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