Thursday, 15 November 2018 21:22

US looked at ways of extraditing Fethullah Gulen to appease Turkey: Report

Fetthullah Gulen AFP
The Trump administration has examined the possibility of extraditing US-based cleric Fethullah Gulen to Turkey as a means of appeasing the Turkish government, which blames the cleric for a 2016 coup attempt.
According to US officials speaking to NBC News, last month the Trump administration asked federal law enforcement agencies to examine legal ways of removing the cleric.
The move would reportedly be aimed at persuading Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan to ease up the pressure on Saudi Arabia, which has been under increasing criticism over the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul in early October.
Among the actions taken include requesting the Justice Department and FBI reopen Turkey's extradition request for Gulen and asking the Homeland Security Department to examine his legal status in the country, where he has lived since the early 90's.
Some 250 people were killed and nearly 2,200 injured when elements of the Turkish military launched a coup attempt in July 2016.
Gulen has repeatedly denied involvement in the coup.
According to NBC, the requests by the White House were greeted with incredulity and anger by department officials.
"At first there were eye rolls, but once they realised it was a serious request, the career guys were furious," said an official.
Although Turkey has reportedly provided large quantities of material to the Justice Department and FBI as part of repeated requests for Gulen's extradition, officials said it did not meet the standard required to initiate an extradition.
Amnesty International has also warned that Gulenists were at risk of mistreatment, including torture, if extradited to Turkey. Erdogan has also threatened to restore the death penalty in the wake of the failed coup.
Gulen was previously an ally of Erdogan and the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP). Figures linked to Gulen's Hizmet movement infiltrated many arms of the Turkish state and helped the AKP neutralise the political power of the military through arrests and prosecutions.
In 2013, however, the two allies fell out after Gulenists opened corruption cases against members of Erdogan's inner circle.
Since the coup attempt, almost 130,000 public sector workers were fired by decree during a post-coup state of emergency because of their alleged links to the plotters, as well as other "terrorist" organisations.
Around 77,000 people have been jailed pending trial.
Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said on Wednesday his ministry had dismissed 23 percent of its career personnel over links to Gulen.
The sources told NBC that the US and Turkey had also discussed the possible release of Turkish banker Mehmet Hakan Atilla, who was sentenced to 32 months in prison in May by a US federal judge for his role in a plot to evade US sanctions against Iran.
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