US officials to discuss Gülen case in Ankara
REUTERS photoA delegation of U.S. officials from the Justice and State departments will arrive in the Turkish capital in order to assist Ankara in preparing its formal request for the extradition of Pennsylvania-based Islamic preacher Fethullah Gülen, who is believed to have orchestrated the July 15 failed coup attempt.
“Recently, officials from the U.S. Department of Justice sent Turkey’s Justice Ministry, to myself, a letter. They expressed that they wanted to send a delegation of specialists to Turkey or, if Turkey wanted to send a delegation, they would accept it. They said they wanted to talk about this,” Justice Minister Bekir Bozdağ told reporters on Aug. 12 during a visit to the office of the governor in Turkey’s Central Anatolian province of Yozgat.
Bozdağ said the United States agreed to send four specialists to Turkey by Aug. 22, three from the Justice Department and one from the State Department.
“They will hold meetings with their Turkish counterparts on Aug. 23 and 24,” the minister said, adding that Gülen’s extradition was no longer a bilateral issue but a “common issue followed by the entire world.”
Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu also said “signs of cooperation” were coming from the U.S. over Ankara’s extradition request, stressing that the entire world knew the Fethullahist Terror Organization (FETÖ) was behind the coup.
“Our primary expectation from the U.S. is to extradite Gülen – in other words, FETÖ. We see signs of cooperation on this issue,” Çavuşoğlu said during an interview with Turkish private broadcaster NTV on Aug. 12.
“A delegation is coming from the U.S. Justice Department to meet their counterparts here. Later on, we also expect a high-level visit,” Çavuşoğlu said.
According to the foreign minister, Turkey will repeat its extradition request once all formal documents are ready, although Bozdağ and Çavuşoğlu will also go to the U.S. and submit the files in person.
The minister also said Secretary of State John Kerry and Vice President Joe Biden expressed their intention to come to Turkey, but fell short of confirming previous comments made by Ankara that Kerry would visit on Aug. 24.
Meanwhile, U.S. State Department Spokesperson Elizabeth Trudeau was asked about Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s Aug. 10 ultimatum that Washington would eventually have to make a choice between “Turkey and FETÖ.”
Declining to specifically address Erdoğan’s remarks, Trudeau said Washington “obviously” did not have to make a choice, adding she did not perceive it as a choice either.
“I think that the legal process governing extradition is very clear; it’s laid out in a treaty. And our support and partnership for Turkey should be unquestioned,” Trudeau said.
In her answer to a separate question, again regarding Gülen’s extradition, Trudeau reiterated the U.S. point that the process is a “legal, technical” one.
“It’s very clear how this process unfolds. It’s not influenced by emotion. It’s not influenced by politics. We have received documents. We are – continue to review them and we continue to be in close touch with our Turkish friends on this. But it’s a process that is governed by the law and the legal system,” she said.
When asked about Trudeau’s response, however, Bozdağ stood by Erdoğan’s remarks, underlining that Washington’s rejection of the extradition request would mean that it “prefers Fethullah Gülen’s friendship to that of Turkey.”
“There is a criminal act and I do not believe it is possible for the U.S. administration to have the slightest doubt that Fethullah Gülen is the perpetrator of this crime. The entire world knows who the perpetrator is. Under such circumstances, the refusal to extradite would surely mean that it prefers Fethullah Gülen’s friendship to that of Turkey,” Bozdağ said, adding that Washington’s decision was a political one, regardless of the legal processes.
Not extraditing Gülen would “mean that [the U.S.] sacrificed Turkey for the sake of a terrorist,” he said.