July 30, 2016 / 8:45 PM / 3 years ago

Turkey's Erdogan says U.S.-based cleric a pawn backed by a 'mastermind'

U.S. based cleric Fethullah Gulen at his home in Saylorsburg, Pennsylvania, U.S. July 29, 2016. REUTERS/Charles Mostoller

ISTANBUL (Reuters) - The U.S.-based Muslim cleric blamed by Turkey for orchestrating a failed coup this month is a pawn backed by a “mastermind”, President Tayyip Erdogan said on Saturday, hinting that greater powers were behind the attempted putsch.

Erdogan often refers to a “mastermind” in his speeches, a reference widely seen as an allusion to the West in general and the United States more specifically.

The cleric, Fethullah Gulen, who has lived in the self-imposed exile in the United States for years, has denied any involvement in the failed coup of July 15-16.

Conspiracy theories have flourished in Turkey since the attempted coup, with one pro-government newspaper saying the putsch was financed by the CIA and directed by a retired U.S. army general using a cell phone in Afghanistan.

The United States has denied any involvement and any prior knowledge of the failed attempt to overthrow the government.

Reporting by Yesim Dikmen; Writing by David Dolan; Editing by Richard Balmforth

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