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Life Sentence Sought for Controversial Muslim Cleric and Texas Charter School Mogul

Controversial Muslim cleric and Texas charter school bigwig Fethullah Gülen is a wanted man. The Republic of Turkey demanded two life sentences plus another 1,900 years in prison for the reclusive Pennsylvania-based imam Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan accused of masterminding July’s failed coup.

In a 2,527 page indictment, Turkish prosecutors alleged Gülen and 111 other suspects attempted to topple the Erdoğan government in a July 15 military action, by forming and running an armed terrorist group and financing terrorism, among other charges, the Hurriyet Daily News reported Tuesday. Turkish authorities arrested 13 of the purported suspects, according to the indictment. They face prison terms ranging from two years to life.

This follows a legal case launched in September 2015 by the Turkish city of Uşak Prosecutor’s Office into the financial assets of the so-called Fetullahist Terrorist Organization (FETÖ). According to the Turkish newspaper, FETÖ members have been active in Usak since 1984.

The indictment accused Gülen of heading up a long-running campaign to overthrow the Turkish government, alleging FETÖ members infiltrated state institutions including the military, police, judiciary, intelligence, state archives, education system, insurance companies, and media, Agency France Presse (AFP) reported. Gülen, 75, is on trial in absentia in Turkish courts.

Since the failed coup, Turkish officials arrested around 26,000 people including senior business leaders, members of the military, judiciary, civil servants, and teachers, according to the state-run Anadolu news agency. At least 240 people were reportedly killed in the coup attempt, which the Turkish government said was organized by Gülen’s followers.

In June, Erdoğan named Gülen and his purported movement a terrorist organization. Turkey later called on President Obama to deport Gülen. Breitbart News reported:

“The Turkish government actually sent a dossier of evidence about Gulen’s alleged involvement in the coup to the U.S. State Department earlier this week. The White House said the Justice and State Departments would review these materials as Gulen’s extradition is considered.

Turkey’s Andalou News Agency claims that President Obama personally discussed extraditing Gulen in a phone call with Erdogan on Tuesday. While there was definitely a telephone conversation between the two presidents, Andalou may be reading too much into the exchange, given the White House’s insistence that extradition would involve a lengthy leghal process.”

Gülen denied any connection to the recent military action in Turkey. He suggested it may have been staged by Erdoğan, his ally until 2013, when, as Prime Minister, Erdoğan accused Gülen of secretly backing a corruption investigation into the government, something Erdoğan called retaliation after he shut down some of Gülen’s schools in Turkey.

In 1999, Gülen fled his native Turkey after being accused of extremist Islamist activities and lives in self-imposed exile in rural Pennsylvania. In a separate probe by the Turkish government, Gülen is believed to be linked to the largest charter school chain in Texas, Harmony Public Schools, the second largest charter school network in the United States.

This year, the Republic of Turkey called for a full scale investigation into the practices of  Harmony’s 46 schools, Breitbart Texas reported. In May, international law firm Amsterdam & Partners LLP filed a formal complaint with the Texas Education Agency (TEA) in which the Turkish government alleged misuse of H-1B visas; preferential hiring and employment practices towards Turkish nationals and males; discriminatory vendor bidding practices; and misappropriation of taxpayer dollars, including funneling monies to the Gülen Organization, among other charges. In a supplemental complaint filed in July, Amsterdam accused the schools of more than $18 million worth of taxpayer fraud. These complaints remain under review by the TEA to determine their merit. Harmony officials maintain they have no connection to Gülen.

Follow Merrill Hope, a member of the original Breitbart Texas team, on Twitter.

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