ISTANBUL - The US-based Muslim cleric blamed by Turkey for orchestrating a failed coup this month is a pawn backed by a "mastermind", President Tayyip Erdogan said on Saturday, hinting that greater powers were behind the attempted putsch.
Erdogan often refers to a "mastermind" in his speeches, a reference widely seen as an allusion to the West in general and the United States more specifically.
The cleric, Fethullah Gulen, who has lived in the self-imposed exile in the United States for years, has denied any involvement in the failed coup of July 15-16.
Conspiracy theories have flourished in Turkey since the attempted coup, with one pro-government newspaper saying the putsch was financed by the CIA and directed by a retired US army general using a cell phone in Afghanistan.
The United States has denied any involvement and any prior knowledge of the failed attempt to overthrow the government.