WASHINGTON: Turkey’s Justice Minister Bekir Bozdag insisted on Thursday that he had provided US authorities with enough evidence for them to arrest alleged coup mastermind Fethullah Gulen.
Bozdag met US Attorney General Loretta Lynch on Wednesday to press the case, but left without being given any guarantees on Turkey’s demand that the US-based cleric be detained and extradited.
US authorities are still examining the request but after the meeting Lynch’s office tellingly noted that the case for extradition “must meet the evidentiary standards of the requested country.”
On Thursday, Bozdag told reporters he had sent Lynch three folders containing additional information requested by US officials to allow them to study the Turkish case against Gulen.
This new documentation concerns a previous extradition request related to Gulen’s alleged role coordinating “terrorist” activity in Turkey from the US state of Pennsylvania before the bloody July 15 coup attempt.
But, Bozdag said, Turkey had also on September 10 submitted a separate request that Gulen be detained in the US pending extradition for his alleged role as leader of the coup attempt itself.
“In our provisional arrest request we put more-than-sufficient evidence and information about the fact that the coup attempt was carried out under the instructions and coordination of the terrorist leader Fethullah Gulen,” he told reporters.
Once the US Justice Department has judged whether there is sufficient evidence to begin extradition proceedings, Turkey’s request will be passed to a judge to be examined under a lengthy court process.
But President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s government, while insisting it respects US procedure, is increasingly frustrated and its supporters are stoking popular anti-Americanism, accusing Washington of harboring a terrorist mastermind.
“Turkey cannot accept and we cannot understand the fact that the murderer of 241 people, who wounded around 2,194 people, is acting freely and managing a terrorist organization freely from a friendly and allied country,” Bozdag said.
Gulen, a former Erdogan ally who has lived in the United States since 1999, denies the claims and his supporters ridicule the description of his group as the Fethullah Terror Organisation (FETO), saying he runs a peaceful religious and educational network.