ISTANBUL (Reuters) - Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan will seek the extradition of his ally-turned-foe, U.S.-based Islamic cleric Fethullah Gulen, when he meets U.S. President Barack Obama at the NATO summit on Friday, Turkish media reports said.
Erdogan, inaugurated last week, has vowed to press his battle with Gulen and his supporters whom he accuses of using influence within the judiciary, police and state bureaucracy to plot against him in his final year as prime minister.
On his plane traveling to Wales for the summit, Erdogan told reporters the “parallel structure”, the expression he uses to describe Gulen supporters within the state apparatus, would be among subjects he would discuss with Obama there.
Gulen lives in self-imposed exile in Pennsylvania. His followers revere him as an enlightened, pro-Western face of moderate Islam but secular critics say he infiltrated government ranks with religiously-minded professionals.
“Deport him or give him to us,” the pro-government Yeni Safak and other newspapers quoted Erdogan as saying of Gulen. “Let him come and live in his own country if he says he hasn’t committed a crime.”
Erdogan says Gulen’s followers orchestrated a corruption probe against his inner circle, which emerged last December, and in response the government has purged thousands of police and hundreds of judges and prosecutors.
Erdogan signaled in April that Turkey would ask the United States to extradite Gulen. But he has acknowledged his relations with Obama have soured amid disappointment at a lack of U.S. action over the war in neighboring Syria.
The two leaders last met face-to-face some 15 months ago but Obama congratulated him by telephone on his victory in the presidential election last month.
Erdogan’s leadership style, from his bombastic rhetoric on Israel to his crackdown on anti-government protests last summer, has raised increasing concern among Western allies in recent years.
But Turkey remains a key member of NATO and a strategic ally for Washington in the turbulent Middle East, with common interests including energy security and the fight against terrorism.
Writing by Daren Butler, Editing by Seda Sezer and Tom Heneghan