Fethullah Gulen, a Muslim cleric who was accused of instigating the failed coup against Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan last year, said that he does not plan on leaving the U.S. to avoid extradition and that he is willing to be sent back to Turkey if Washington requests it.
Gulen, who leads the Hizmet Movement, also known as the Gulenist movement, in Turkey, denied the allegations that he intends to flee the U.S.
"The rumors aren't true at all," the 79-year-old cleric said in an interview with Reuters. "If the United States sees it appropriate to extradite me, I would leave (for Turkey)," he added.
Erdogan has directly appealed to U.S. President Donald Trump regarding Gulen's extradition to Turkey, but U.S. officials have stated that Turkey has yet to provide enough evidence for the Justice Department to act.
The Turkish government had accused Gulen of organizing the failed coup in July last year. More than 240 people have been killed after rogue soldiers commandeered tanks and fighter jets in an attempt to abduct and kill the Turkish president.
Gulen, however, has insisted that he has never supported a coup or any attempts to oust Erdogan.
The cleric said he hoped that the Trump administration would decide against moving forward with his extradition, especially after the resignation of former national security adviser Michael Flynn, who was outspoken in extraditing Gulen to Turkey.
Gulen, who was once a key supporter of Erdogan, has denounced the Turkish president's consolidation of power and has urged the Trump administration as well as European governments to do more to restore political freedoms in Turkey.
Meanwhile, an American pastor remains imprisoned in Turkey over accusations of aiding the Kurdish Workers Party (PKK) and Fethullah Gülen.
Pastor Andrew Brunson of North Carolina was arrested along with his wife on Oct. 7, 2016 in the coastal town of Izmir. His wife was later released but Turkish authorities charged him with "membership in an armed terrorist organization."
There have been speculations that the imprisoned pastor is being used as a leverage to move the U.S. to extradite political enemies of Turkey.
In May, Erdogan has reportedly issued a warning that no foreign captives would be released unless their respective governments met his demands to extradite his political enemies.
"I now call on the world that if you do not contribute to the restoration of honor [of those victims from July 15 coup], you should know that you will not receive anyone that is captured by us," Erdogan said.
"Because counter terrorism is not local, it is the implementation of an international agreement. If such international combat is being conducted, then we want you [other countries] to extradite those [Gülenists] immediately, as we will also deprive them of their citizenships," he added.