Gulen denies allegations of plotting against government
ISTANBUL - The exiled Muslim cleric at the heart of a bitter feud with Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan Monday denied allegations that he was behind a vast graft scandal roiling the government.
In his first broadcast interview since he arrived in the United States in 1999, Fethullah Gulen told the BBC that he was not behind the corruption probe that has ensnared Erdogan's key allies.
"It is not possible for these judges and prosecutors to receive orders from me. I have no relation with them. I don't know even 0.1 percent of them," Gulen said.
Several of Erdogan's business allies and the sons of ministers in his cabinet were arrested in mid-December on suspicion of corruption and bribery.
Erdogan has accused loyalists of Gulen of acting as a "state within a state" and instigating the probe to destabilise his government ahead of March local polls.
In response, the prime minister has embarked on a massive purge of police and prosecutors believed to be involved in the probe.
But the 73-year-old cleric, whose Hizmet movement wields considerable influence in the judiciary and police, said those sacked or reassigned in the wake of the corruption probe "were not linked to us".
"These moves were made to make our movement appear bigger than it already is and to frighten people about this non-existent phantom threat," he said.
"People in the judiciary and the police carried out investigations and launched this case, as their duties normally require. Apparently they weren't informed of the fact that corruption and bribery have ceased to be criminal acts in Turkey," he added.
Gulen, who owns a network of schools, culture centres and media, was a key backer of Erdogan before falling out with him over the government's plans to shut down his schools.