JERUSALEM, Israel – Sweeping arrests of the military, judiciary and other public figures in Turkey have given rise to conspiracy theories alleging that the Turkish president may have been behind the attempted coup that left nearly 300 dead and hundreds more injured.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan accused Fethullah Gulen, a Turkish-born Sunni Islamic cleric living in the United States, of orchestrating the coup, an accusation Gulen denies. Erdogan wants Gulen sent back to Turkey.
The Obama administration said it would consider the request to extradite Gulen, who left Turkey more than 15 years ago and lives in Pennsylvania.
Meanwhile, Secretary of State John Kerry said rumors the U.S. may have been involved in planning the coup are "utterly false" and "harmful to our bilateral relations."
"Obviously, there are coup plotters, and the coup plotters need to be held accountable and they will be," Kerry told ABC News. "But I think we're all concerned, and we have expressed that concern, that this not fuel to reach well beyond those who engaged in the coup, but that they strengthen the democracy of the country, strengthen the process, and use it as a moment to unite the nation."
Nearly 3,000 prosecutors and judges suspected of supporting Gulen were taken into custody, along with thousands of soldiers, including top commanders.
Johannes Hahn, a European Union commissioner overseeing Turkey's membership application to the EU, said it appears the government may have prepared lists of officials to be arrested before the coup took place.
"It looks at least as if something had been prepared. The lists are available, which indicates it was prepared and to be used at a certain stage," Hahn said.
Erdogan is talking about reinstituting the death sentence for those involved in the attempted coup. In 2004, Turkey abolished capital punishment as a prerequisite for opening membership negotiations in the European Union.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said the "dramatic events" did not alter the reconciliation process with Turkey.
"Israel and Turkey have agreed on a reconciliation process and we assume it will continue regardless of the dramatic events that took place over the weekend," Netanyahu told ministers at the weekly cabinet meeting.
A senior Turkish official later affirmed the reconciliation process with Israel "continues as usual."