Turkey formally requested the extradition on Tuesday of a reclusive Muslim cleric living in the Poconos for his alleged role in last week's failed coup.
Fethullah Gulen, the cleric, who has been living in a gated retreat in Saylorsburg, called the move a "political vendetta" and urged the United States government to reject it.
Gulen said Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan "had once again demonstrated he will go to any length necessary to solidify his power and persecute his critics. It is ridiculous, irresponsible, and false to suggest I had anything to do with the horrific failed coup. I urge the U.S. government to reject any effort to abuse the extradition process to carry out political vendettas."
Tuesday afternoon's statement was released by the Alliance for Shared Values, a nonprofit based in New York City that promotes Gullen's philosophy.
Gulen's attorney could not be reached for comment.
Turkey's prime minister earlier had told his country's parliament that Turkey had sent four files to the United States about the alleged activities of Gulen.
Erdogan's government has blamed Gulen, 77, for orchestrating the quashed uprising and fired tens of thousands of teachers, university deans, and others accused of ties to the plot.
Although Turkey had repeatedly said the United States should return Gulen, Tuesday's move was the first formal extradition request. The dossiers include results from Turkish prosecutors' long-running probes into Gulen, not evidence of his actions related to the coup, according to the Financial Times.
The United States has an extradition treaty with Turkey, and requests are handled by the U.S. Department of Justice's Office of International Affairs in the Criminal Division.
A spokesman for the Justice Department in Washington, D.C., said Tuesday that officials were analyzing materials supplied by the Turkish government.
"The Turkish Ministry of Justice has provided materials relating to Mr. Gulen, and we have begun analyzing these materials," Peter Carr, a department spokesman, said in an email to the Inquirer.
He said he could not provide more details.
In a rare interview last weekend, Gulen said that did not think the United States would give in to Turkey's demands, but would comply if the State Department asked him to leave.
"If a request from what is essentially a dictator is taken seriously in the United States, I think it would run contrary to what the United States stands for," he said then, speaking through an interpreter.
"But if there is any possibility of a forceful extradition, of course we will oblige," he said. "But I'm not worried about that. I'm not worried that the U.S. government will give credit to claims that Erdogan is making. I will not beg anybody. I have enjoyed my freedom here. I will leave without grudges in my heart."
Meanwhile, President Obama told Erdogan in a phone call of the United States' staunch support for that nation's democratically elected government.
White House spokesman Josh Earnest told reporters in Washington that Obama pledged "any needed assistance to the Turkish government."
Obama made it clear the United States expects that any inquiry that the Turkish government makes into the failed coup should be conducted "consistent with the democratic" values of the Turkish constitution, Earnest said, according to Bloomberg News.
Earnest said that Obama and Erdogan had discussed Gulen's status.
He said that any decision on Gulen would be made according to steps established by U.S. law and not by Obama. He said the U.S. would consider the formal request on its merits.
"There is a process that we will follow" as it relates to Gulen, Earnest said. "There also is due process to which people who live in the United States are entitled. And we'll make sure that that due process is followed as well."
Gulen obtained a green card by convincing a federal judge in Philadelphia that he was an influential educational figure in the United States. As evidence, his lawyer pointed to a network of charter schools across the country that now number about 150 schools.