Turkey criticizes US over cleric accused of coup plot

ISTANBUL (AP) – A top Turkish official Friday accused the United States of “standing up for savages” by not immediately handing over a U.S.-based Muslim cleric who the government claims orchestrated last week’s failed coup. Speaking in Washington, President Barack Obama said there was a legal process for extradition and encouraged Turkey to present evidence.

In a sign of increasing tension, Turkey said it was dispatching its justice and interior ministers to the United States next week to push for the extradition of the cleric, Fethullah Gulen.

The two NATO countries are allies in the fight against the Islamic State; American military jets have been flying missions against extremists in Iraq and Syria out of the Turkish air base at Incirlik.

U.S. officials said Friday that electric power was restored to the Incirlik base, which had been operating on a backup generator since July 16, when power was shut off at all military bases in Turkey following the failed coup.

Meanwhile, Turkey’s prime minister, Binali Yildirim, warned that coup plotters still at large might stage attacks, saying there is “a remote chance some madmen might take action, acting out of a sense of revenge and defeat.”

Turkey has launched a sweeping crackdown following the failed July 15 insurrection, declaring a three-month state of emergency and detaining or dismissing tens of thousands of people in the military and other state institutions. In the latest measures, the government revoked nearly 11,000 passports and detained 283 members of the presidential guard, the state-run Anadolu news agency reported.

Turkey alleges the coup attempt by some military units was conceived by Gulen, who has lived in self-imposed exile in Pennsylvania since the late 1990s. Gulen has denied any prior knowledge of the coup attempt.

Yildirim criticized the United States for failing to hand over the cleric, a former ally of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Turkey’s most dominant political figure for more than a decade.

“Stop standing up for savages who run over citizens with tanks, who strafe people from land and the air,” Yildirim said.

Some Turks, possibly influenced by traditional mistrust of U.S. policy in the region, have speculated that the United States is protecting Gulen and knew about the plot to overthrow the Turkish government.