JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – A letter to City Council President Lori Boyer from the Turkish Consulate in Miami connects a violent coup attempt this month in Turkey to a wanted terrorist hiding in the U.S., who has ties to more than 100 charter schools, including one in Jacksonville, the I-TEAM has learned.
River City Science Academy on Beach Boulevard, a growing Duval County charter school that's on track to open a fourth campus in Mandarin, is one of 130 schools in 26 states linked in national media reports to Fethullah Gulen.
The schools were all opened by Turkish immigrants, according to reports.
River City Science Academy, which opened in Duval County in 2007, was founded in part by a Turkish American, Dogan Tozoglu, who is now the school's executive director.
He adamantly denied any tie to Gulen, who Turkey is demanding President Barack Obama to extradite immediately.
“We have a proven track record academically and operationally in Duval County, so those allegations are nonsense and are not true,” Tozoglu said.
A violent coup attempt in Turkey that saw tanks in the streets and bullets flying ended with the rebels surrendering after one night of fighting that left more than 200 people dead and 1,500 wounded.
Days later, the Turkish Consulate in Miami sent a letter about the coup to Boyer.
It states that 7,500 coup plotters have been detained in Turkey but that the Turkish government wants the U.S. to extradite Gulen, who recently spoke to CNN through an interpreter.
“In my view, doing these kind of things are a direct betrayal of our nation, a direct attempt to divide our nation, and I do not condone them,” Gulen said.
Gulen, who is said to be in bad health, rarely talks to the media, living in self-imposed exile in Pennsylvania since 1999.
In the letter to Boyer, the consulate says Gulen's terrorist group is "disguised as a religious cult … in the United States."
The BBC reported on Friday that Turkey's president is now pushing for all of Gulen's schools to be shut down globally as the nation continues to pressure Obama to return him to Turkey.
Boyer said Friday that "we were surprised to receive the letter and are trying to understand the involvement, if any, locally."
Two resolutions requested by the school have been placed on hold by the City Council as it investigates.
A father called the I-TEAM late Friday afternoon to say his four children from Jacksonville attend River City Science Academy and love the curriculum and the staff.