US is bound to arrest Gülen according to deal with Turkey: Justice Minister Bozdağ
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Ankara is suspicious of Washington’s intentions regarding Fethullah Gülen as the U.S. is not implementing key articles of its 1979 extradition deal with Turkey, Justice Minister Bekir Bozdağ has claimed.
Article 9 of the extradition deal stipulates the arrest of Gülen after the receipt of necessary documents, Bozdağ told the Hürriyet Daily News.
“They don’t even have to be convinced. The deal does not give the U.S. the right of discretion for the arrest,” he added.
Where are we in terms of Gülen’s extradition process?
The process is continuing within the framework of the extradition treaty signed in 1979.
We had already sent four separate folders to the United States prior to the July 15 coup attempt. Recently a delegation came to Turkey and was informed in detail about the issue. We are now preparing the dossier for Gülen’s extradition directly regarding his role in the coup attempt. That is taking some time as the evidence is being gathered. But there is more than enough evidence proving that Gülen planned and administered the coup. There are testimonies of coup plotters who say they were acting under his instructions.
For some in the West, testimonies are not enough as evidence. It is claimed that they are being taken under pressure or torture.
Along with the testimonies there is other evidence found during the searches like camera recordings, computers, cell phones and written documents. All those are currently being analyzed, but they validate the testimonies. There are also witness accounts of people who were taken hostage by the coup plotters.
The testimonies are concrete evidence. And could there be better evidence than witness accounts? One of them is from the chief of general staff. He says the [Fethullah Terror Organization] FETÖ committed this coup and he was offered a telephone conversation with Gülen on the night of the coup attempt. Was he also tortured to say this?
If there is any case of torture under detention, we need to be provided with names and we should indeed be accused of torture if we don’t take the necessary steps. When it comes to those pictures [in which some soldiers were seen with bruises on their faces and hands], those soldiers were not caught while on a picnic. They come to kill you and they resist when you apprehend them. The pictures were interpreted as if those bruises appeared during their detention period.
Following the coup attempt we started to prepare the dossier for the request to extradite over new crimes: The attempt to assassinate the president and to murder 241 people. Meanwhile we have requested Gülen’s urgent arrest. The U.S. authorities asked about reasons for the urgency so we sent a letter explaining that there was a possibility of Gülen escaping after statements from American officials that the extradition request would be on the agenda. It seems that he is making efforts to escape to Canada, South Africa or Egypt. We also underlined that he might attempt to stage a new coup and he continues to lead the organization, which continues to commit crimes.
We were told orally that they accepted the reasons of urgency, but we have not received anything in written form. If they had not been satisfied by our answers they would have asked for additional information.
Yet they have still not taken action. The process does not seem to be progressing smoothly.
We will send three new folders in the next week or two, including our request for Gülen’s immediate arrest. We cannot say the process is continuing without problems. But U.S. officials are showing great interest, and for the first time they are sending an expert team to Turkey. They said that team might return if necessary. This shows they are giving importance to the issue.
They say “the courts will decide.” Indeed that it true, but the dossier to be sent to the courts are prepared by the relevant department of the Justice Ministry. And the court’s decision will depend on the content of this dossier. The evidence provided and the rhetoric used by the relevant department will also be influential in the court’s decision. So there is an impression among the Turkish nation that U.S. is dragging its feet.
Article 9 of the treaty says: “Parties to the treaty will take all necessary measures, including the search for the requested person, following the transfer of information and documents about the extradition.” We have provided the necessary documents and the treaty does not leave it to their discretion. The related individual should be held under arrest until the court rules on the extradition. So far the U.S. authorities have not implemented Article 9.
Why not? What’s your view on their stance?
This article does not foresee any conditions to be convinced. The party to the treaty does not have to look at whether or not the evidence is sufficient. The treaty says what the party should do the moment a request is made. But the U.S. has not taken action.
It would not be appropriate for me to speak on their behalf. But while this is a legal process, it also has a political dimension. The process needs to be implemented by the political authorities. Vice President Joe Biden said “the courts will decide.” Indeed, but if you don’t send this request to the courts, the courts can’t decide.
We all have to respect the process. But the key to this process is political will. The stance taken by the political will determines the outcome of the legal process. The fact that Washington is showing interest but refraining from implementing Article 9 makes us wonder about whether it is dragging its feet. We see an interest but not a positive outcome from that interest. This makes us think about whether the U.S. has already made a different decision about the extradition process.
I must also underline that Article 3 of the treaty outlines exceptions to extradition, such as political crimes. But if the person to be extradited is accused of a crime against the head of state, this is not considered a political crime.
Recently, the fact that the opening of the new judicial year was held in the presidential compound has been an issue of criticism.
I can only laugh at that criticism. The event will not take place in the presidency, but in the congress and culture center of the presidency, which is open to the use of all public institutions. So when you hold the event in a hotel or the conference hall of the Ankara Chamber of Commerce, the independence of the judiciary is not harmed, but when it is held in the presidential congress center it is harmed?
Sometimes places have symbolic importance.
This only shows the importance of prejudices. We need to get rid of them. Keeping everything away from the president has become another malady.
Will the state of emergency, imposed after the coup attempt, be prolonged?
God willing, it will end before three months is over. We do not aim to extend it.
Long detention periods and problems in access to lawyers have also been criticized.
There is a perception that everyone is being held in detention for the full 30 days allowed under the state of emergency. But this is not the case. That detention period is only valid for mass crimes and terrorism. I have asked for the statistics, which I will make public soon, but there are only few people who have been detained for over four days. The vast majority have been brought before a judge within four days.
There are no problems in terms of access to lawyers. It’s true that we changed the decree whereby a suspect and their lawyer are automatically brought together. We gave the right of discretion to the administration.
We did so because currently there are many people in prisons, especially in Ankara and Istanbul. It would be impossible if they all at the same time ask to see their lawyers. We made the change so that these meetings can be done in an orderly manner.
The number of trials under detention is rising again.
Shouldn’t we arrest those who plotted a coup?
Is everybody detained implicated in the coup attempt?
Not everyone. But Adil Öksüz, [said to be FETÖ’s leader in the Turkish Air Forces], was released from jail and then it was realized that he was one of the most important names. Some 55,000 people have been subjected to legal procedures since the coup attempt and more than half of them have been released. Our government has done a lot to make arrests more difficult.
There is also criticism in terms of bad treatment. The arrest of the writer Aslı Erdoğan, and her complaints about not having access to her medicine, made headlines.
I can’t discuss the case of Aslı Erdoğan. Journalists are not under arrest because of journalism.
But many people have been targeted. There is an impression that a lot of suspects are being presumed guilty by association.
No one will be tried because he or she is a relative of a criminal.
But the numbers are very high.
You are talking about the administrative measures. Turkey has survived a big threat and the people want an effective struggle against the perpetrators. The man in the street has become suspicious of civil servants’ loyalty to the state. It’s not always easy to determine in a very clear cut way who is a FETÖ member and who is not. It’s like tea: There is water, tea and sugar and it’s not easy to separate them.
That’s why there is a call to separate the guilty from the innocent.
We are doing our utmost to do that.
Don’t you think we need to separate mere sympathizers from those who were directly implicated in the coup?
The milestone was Dec 17, 2013 [the date of the corruption cases targeting senior government figures].
Right. But let’s suppose that someone remained a sympathizer after Dec 17 without participating in the coup.
The judiciary will make that decision.
But let’s say someone like journalist Şahin Alpay, who is arrested. OK he worked at a Gülenist newspaper, but in which of his articles did he call on Gülenists to take over the state or plot a coup?
We can learn the crimes attributed to him from the prosecutor. I can’t talk on each individual case. But if prosecutors attribute a crime they must have some information in their hands.
But we saw in the Ergenekon cases how there can be false evidence and prosecutors can take a mistaken stance.
And the truth in that case was revealed thanks to the measures taken by the AKP.
Who is Bekir Bozdağ?
Bekir Bozdağ was born in Akdağmadeni, Yozgat on April 1, 1965. He graduated from Uludağ University’s Faculty of Theology and completed his postgraduate studies at the History of Religions Department of Uludağ University’s Institute of Social Sciences.
Later, he obtained a diploma from Selçuk University’s Faculty of Law.
Bozdağ was among the founders of the Provincial Administration of the Justice and Development Party (AKP) in Yozgat and acted as vice president for Political and Legal Affairs (2001-2002).
He was elected to parliament as a deputy from Yozgat in the 22nd, 23rd, 24th and 26th parliamentary terms. He was a member of the Justice Committee (2002-2007) and deputy chairman of the AKP’s Parliament Group (2007-2011). He took the office of deputy prime minister in the 61st government term (2011-2013) and Justice Minister in the 61st and 62nd government terms (2013-2015).
Still a member of the AKP’s Central Decision and Administration Board, Bozdağ was appointed Justice Minister in the 64th government term.