Washington (AFP) – Turkey has submitted four extradition requests for the US-based cleric Fethullah Gulen but offered no evidence tying him to last month’s failed coup, a senior US official said Wednesday.
“They have not provided extradition requests on anything related to Gulen’s involvement in the coup attempt,” he told reporters of the Turkish authorities, adding that the four requests are “all related to allegations of criminal behavior that predated the coup.”
Ankara accuses Gulen, an erstwhile ally turned bitter foe of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, of masterminding the bloody putsch attempt from rural Pennsylvania, where he has lived in self-imposed exile since 1999.
Turkey has demanded that he be placed in provisional detention and returned to Turkey to face charges, but Washington insists that any evidence be brought before a US court under normal extradition proceedings.
The senior US official was traveling with US Vice President Joe Biden, who arrived in Turkey on Wednesday for meetings with President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Prime Minister Binali Yildirim in an effort to help improve relations strained by the coup attempt.
The highest-ranking US official to visit the NATO ally since the coup attempt, Biden is expected to come under intense pressure over Gulen’s fate.
The Turkish authorities “have provided no evidence to us at all of Gulen’s possible connections to the coup,” the US official said, adding that any extradition decision would be made under judicial process with no White House interference.
“We can work with the Turks to present evidence to court, but the court decides,” he said. “And if we are perceived as politicizing this, it could be counter-productive.”