Turks in the U.S. on Saturday gathered in Pennsylvania to protest the coup attempt in Turkey blamed on the controversial, retired imam, Fethullah Gülen.A group of Turkish nationals from neighboring states converged on Gülen's Saylorsburg, Pennsylvania residence. Some came from as far away as Washington to demand Gülen's extradition to Turkey where he is wanted on charges related to multiple attempts to forcibly remove the elected Turkish government. The latest attempt took place late Friday when a group within the military tried to mount a coup, raising anxiety from what many Turks had hoped was a bygone era of periodic coups by the country's historically powerful military.
Approximately 160 people were killed by coup soldiers who blocked bridges and airports, attempted a media blackout and went as far as bombing Parliament and other key buildings as well as people and law enforcement officials.
"Obama, make him go!" and "The nation is here, where are the traitors?" the crowd in Pennsylvania chanted, calling through a megaphone at passing vehicles: "Your neighbor is a terrorist."
Nejit Zafer Saydam who traveled from Connecticut to join the protest told Anadolu Agency that he wants Gülen to face charges in Turkey. "What we want is this guy to be turned over by the U.S. government to the Turkish government so that he can go back and stand trial for what he did to Turkey," he said.
Musa Kalsavlan came from the neighboring state of New Jersey to Gülen's massive complex and echoed Saydam, asserting that the reclusive cleric is "killing Turkish people, he's killing Muslim people."
Hasan Güçlü, a protest organizer from Delaware, said not even the demonstration would be enough to shame Gülen into returning to his home country to face charges, but the protest was nonetheless significant for raising awareness. He said: "There needs to be an agreement between the U.S. government and the Turkish government on this," in reference to Ankara's extradition demands. Güçlü added: "It is simply not enough to say we are allies and not act upon it. … They [U.S. officials] are always talking about strategic alliance with Turkey. … As far as I can see, there must be a strategic situation that prevents them from giving him back." Güçlü is hopeful the situation could change following the coup attempt.
"Turkey should play all its cards to get him back," he said.
Gülen's followers have opened numerous schools in the U.S., and he is believed to hold financial assets worth billions of dollars.
Protesters also voiced support for the reinstatement of capital punishment in Turkey. The death penalty was abolished in 2004, but for at least a decade before that Turkey did not execute any prisoners.
Gülen's neighbors, Penny and Lester, who did not give their last names, say they are surprised the U.S. government is not helping Turkey in its extradition bid. "Why aren't they sending him back?" Lester, 74, said when he learned of the accusations of Gülen plotting and orchestrating a coup attempt.