US offered to help on Gülen’s extradition, Turkish FM confirms
ANKARA / WASHINGTON
AFP photoThe United States made an offer to form a working group composed of officials from its foreign affairs and justice departments in order to assist Turkey in preparing its formal request for the extradition of Pennsylvania-based Islamic scholar Fethullah Gülen, who is believed to have orchestrated the July 15 failed coup attempt, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu has confirmed.
“We want to bring the ringleader of FETÖ [Fethullahist Terror Organization] to Turkey. Our demand from the U.S. is plain and simple. They should not harbor this person who attempted to make a coup,” Çavuşoğlu said in an interview with state-run broadcaster TRT Haber on July 22, a day after U.S. State Department Spokesperson John Kirby remarked on Turkey’s extradition request.
Underlining that the Foreign Ministry and the Justice Ministry were closely monitoring the process, the foreign minister warned against the possibility that Gülen may flee to another country in order to avoid being extradited and called on Washington to take necessary measures against it.
“The U.S. is trying to pioneer civilian democracy around the world. We do not have an objection to that. But the U.S. should prevent the escape of the ringleader of this gang that plotted a coup. It should take the necessary measures,” Çavuşoğlu said. The warning came hours after Kirby admitted to not being aware of any legal measures against Gülen, in response to a question inquiring whether he was still a “free man” who could leave the country whenever he wanted.
The foreign minister also criticized Washington’s insistence that Ankara submit “solid evidence” linking Gülen directly to the coup plot, underlining that the action itself was the evidence.
“We cooperate [with the U.S.] on extradition and deportation. The U.S. has also made similar requests from people who came [to Turkey] from other countries or terror organizations. When they made these requests, they never submitted court rulings or evidence,” Çavuşoğlu said.
Around the same time, Justice Minister Bekir Bozdağ announced during a live interview with private broadcaster CNN Türk that he could personally travel to the U.S. to work on the formal process.
“Either by sending an expert from the [Justice] Ministry or going to the U.S. in person as justice minister, I can monitor the issue first hand,” Bozdağ said, adding they were evaluating options and that evidence was set to be sent electronically to the U.S. on July 22.
Bozdağ said Ankara will convey arrest demand before the file against Gülen is complete, as emergency detainments were valid for up to 60 days and U.S. authorities were obliged to let suspects go if files did not reach them in time.
Prior to the statements of the interior and foreign ministers, Prime Minister Binali Yıldırım also discussed the issue with U.S. Vice President Joe Biden on July 21, as both expressed their hope to work together on Gülen’s extradition.
Biden acknowledged Turkey’s expectation regarding the extradition request during a telephone call to Yıldırım and said the U.S. would continue to support its ally, according to Prime Ministry sources.
Speaking on the condition of anonymity due to restrictions on speaking to media, the sources told state-run Anadolu Agency that Biden said the ultimate decision rested with the U.S. courts.
Çavuşoğlu also confirmed Kirby’s July 21 remarks that Washington had offered to send a team of experts from its justice and foreign affairs departments to help Ankara with the content of its extradition requests.
“We are down for anything but he [Gülen] should be extradited,” he said.
Washington’s offer came amid repetitive warnings from the U.S. that Turkey’s request needed to be based on evidence and “not just allegations.” The file would need to include information that “specifically links the individual to the events that occurred,” Kirby explained.
The spokesperson also said that Turkey’s Justice and Development Party (AKP) government had already submitted some documents and they were being analyzed by the U.S. Justice Department. He added, however, that he was not aware of a response from Turkey over the U.S. offer to send an assistant team.
Kirby was also persistently asked to comment on a crackdown on alleged members of the Gülenist organization, which led to the detainment or suspension of up to 50,000 people and the declaration of a state of emergency on July 20.
In response, the spokesperson omitted using strong language and said it was “understandable” for the Turkish government to take the threat seriously after an attempted coup.
“I mean I think any democratic government that faced what they faced just a few days ago – and let’s be mindful of the calendar here, this wasn’t that long ago – you can understand that they have a responsibility to investigate. They have a responsibility to hold those who are responsible for it to account,” he said.
Gülen had been a close ally of the government until recently, and has lived in the United States since 1999.
The Turkish government has wanted the extradition of Gülen for over two years, but this is the first time a formal request has been made on an issue that has strained Turkish-U.S. ties.
Secretary of State John Kerry on July 18 said the U.S. had not received a formal request for extradition and reminded Turkish officials that any request must meet a specific set of standards, including specific evidence of wrongdoing by Gülen.