US court gives Gülen 21 days to present his defense
Tolga Tanış - WASHINGTON
CİHAN photoThe extradition of U.S.-based Islamic scholar Fethullah Gülen was “unofficially” demanded in a civil suit filed last week by lawyers hired by the Turkish government, while a judge who accepted the appeal has given Gülen 21 days to respond to accusations filed against him.
The lawsuit cited three citizens of the Republic of Turkey as plaintiffs who say they have been victimized by the Gülen Movement. Although it hired the lawyers of the case, the Turkish government is not named as a plaintiff in the suit, which was filed on Dec. 7 at a district court in Pennsylvania.
Gülen was one a close ally of the Justice and Development Party (AKP) government and President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, but relations have soured in recent years.
In order for an extradition to take place, the subject of the case must have committed a crime.
“This lawsuit will display that the Gülen Movement does not have immunity in the U.S.,” Robert Amsterdam, the founder of U.K.-based firm Amsterdam and Partners LLP which filed the suit, told Hürriyet.
Amsterdam and Partners LLP filed the suit along with Pennsylvania-based law firm Fox Rothschild LLP, as Gülen has lived in Pennsylvania since 1999. In statement to Hürriyet, Amsterdam underlined that their appeal was not linked to a separate request for extradition said to have been filed by the Turkish government.
According to information obtained by Hürriyet, Judge Robert Mariani, having put Amsterdam’s petition in process with file number “3:15−CV−02354−RDM” also wrote a document addressed to Gülen on Dec. 7, asking him to respond to the allegations within 21 days.
In a separate document dated Dec. 9 and sent to the attorneys of the complainants, Mariani announced that he would hold a meeting concerning the file within four months.
The eighth article of the petition asking for a jury trial refers to an “unofficial request by the Turkish government for Gülen’s extradition.”
“Mr. Gülen has since been formally charged in Turkey with infiltrating key state institutions in order to overthrow the lawfully elected government. The Government of Turkey has informally requested his extradition to Turkey to stand trial, although Mr. Gülen presently remains in the United States and is residing within this jurisdiction,” said the petition.
When asked whether his company was involved in any stage of the Turkish government’s request for extradition of Gülen, Amsterdam declined to elaborate and briefly said: “The extradition issue is a matter between the governments.”
“My client is the Turkish government but we are defending three victims aggrieved by the Gülen Movement,” he also said, while not making clear whether they were being paid any fee by those three Turkish citizens.
In line with the principle of privacy, the U.S. administration doesn’t make any comments on cases of extradition. However, a U.S. official who previously spoke to Hürriyet on the issue said no application had yet been made at the Department of Justice.
“The main counterpart on this issue is the Justice Department. So far, no official application has been filed to the Justice department. The U.S. Justice Department will look into what can be done when Turkey files its official application, along with documents,” the official said.
The same U.S. official had stressed that Gülen’s involvement in a crime must be proven by a U.S. court in order for his extradition to be possible.
Amsterdam and Partners LLP, meanwhile, stated that its “efforts are both a legal struggle against the Gülen Movement and a political struggle and investigation at the same time. We will present a report about preliminary results of our efforts either in March or April.”
It said accusations against Gülen go beyond the subject of the lawsuit filed, as they include “human smuggling, tax fraud and violation of the migration law.”
The claims against Gülen have been filed under the Alien Tort Statute (ATS), an 18th century law that has been used to try human rights cases from around the world in U.S. courts.
In 2006, Charles “Chuckie” Taylor Jr., the son of Charles Taylor, the former President of Liberia, who was commander of the infamously violent Anti-Terrorist Unit during his father’s presidency, was sentenced for torturing five people in Liberia in a civil suit filed on behalf of five victims pursuant to the ATS.