The Justice Minister of Turkey announced Tuesday that he has sent a second extradition request to the United States for Fethullah Gulen, an Islamic cleric living in the Pocono mountains whom President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has accused of orchestrating the July 15 failed coup attempt in Turkey.
“We wrote and sent it, saying ‘There are serious claims and expressions that Gulen has a hand in the coup attempt,” minister Bekir Bozdag said, according to the state-run news outlet Anadolu Agency. “That is why he needs to be immediately arrested. We have intelligence that he could flee to a third country.” Bozdag warned that U.S.-Turkey relations could be “negatively” affected if Gulen left the United States before he was extradited.
It is unclear whether Bozrag’s second request included new evidence against Gulen or any new information regarding the situation. Turkey first called for Gulen’s extradition in relation to the coup attempt shortly after it occurred, with Erdogan warning that it would be a “big mistake” for President Barack Obama to disregard the request.
The Turkish government declared it had sent four dossiers on Gulen to Washington shortly after the coup attempt. It has repeatedly claimed that overwhelming evidence exists linking Gulen to the coup attempt on July 15, including confessions and retrieved written communications by high-ranking military officials involved in the coup that they were acting on Gulen’s orders.
“The evidence is crystal clear. We know the terrorist cult responsible for the vicious attacks against us and the Turkish people. We simply cannot understand why the U.S. cannot just hand over this individual,” Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yıldırım told the Wall Street Journal.
“America keeps asking us for documents and evidence. What documents do you need, when 265 people were killed, bombed by jets and ran over by tanks? The evidence is clear,” he added.
Gulen is not the only suspect, however. A Turkish prosecutor in Edirne has submitted an indictment for the coup against the CIA and the FBI, arguing that Gulen is a puppet of both agencies and that the U.S. government orchestrated the failed coup attempt. “The CIA and FBI provided training in several subjects to the cadre raised in the culture centers belonging to the Gülen movement,” the indictment reads.
When not demanding the United States extradite Gulen, Erdogan has told American officials to go “mind your own business,” regarding the coup. It appears American officials are listening as there has been no public movement towards extraditing Gulen, though Secretary of State John Kerry has stated the U.S. is open to the idea.
The Erdogan government has arrested, fired from public jobs, or detained an estimated 50,000 people in relation to the coup attempt. It has also shut down 131 media outlets — newspapers, television, and internet — that it claims are related to Gulen. Many of these organizations have published reports critical of Erdogan for cracking down on freedom of expression in the country and imposing increasingly Islamist teachings in Turkish schools. Some have been raided by police or have had their editors arrested and convicted for their reports. “Insulting the president” is a crime in Turkey.
In the United States, Gulen runs an Islamic movement known as “Hizmet,” and has established numerous charter schools that teach Sharia principles nationwide. The Turkish government alleges that Gulen’s movement is a “cult” and “terrorist organization” which seeks to infiltrate Turkish society and overthrow democracy so as to lodge Gulen in as head of state permanently. The FBI has raided Gulen charter schools in the past following the revelation of evidence that the schools had misappropriated public funds, but Gulen’s schools have not come under official investigation for any relation with terrorist or radical Islamist elements in Turkey.