Turkish government-backed lawsuit filed against cleric in US

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ANKARA, Turkey (AP) — A Turkish government-backed lawsuit has been filed against a U.S.-based cleric, who has become the chief foe of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

A lawyer hired by the Turkish government, Robert Amsterdam, provided a copy of the filing in the U.S. district court in Pennsylvania. The lawsuit alleges that cleric Fethullah Gulen orchestrated human rights abuses from his residence in Pennsylvania against three men in Turkey. It alleges that Gulen ordered followers among the police and judiciary to plant evidence against the three men and build false criminal cases that led to their imprisonment.

The Turkish government claims Gulen has been running a parallel state by getting his followers into key positions in state institutions, including the police and judiciary. It has labelled Gulen's movement a terrorist organization. Gulen has denied the allegations.

The lawsuit is part of a broad campaign against Gulen's movement in Turkey and abroad. The government has carried out a purge of civil servants suspected of ties to the movement, seized businesses and closed some media organizations. Amsterdam said in an interview that other lawsuits in the US may follow.

The suit dated Dec. 7 alleges that Gulen targeted the three men because they were part of a rival spiritual movement critical of his teachings.

The Alliance for Shared Values, an organization close to Gulen, said in a statement the suit is part of an attempt to smear the moderate Islamic movement, which it says promotes democracy, philanthropy and inter-faith dialogue. It calls the investigation "absurd and outlandish."


Butler reported from Washington.

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