August 13, 2016 5:22:17 pm
Turkey will not compromise with Washington over the extradition of the Islamic cleric it accuses of orchestrating a failed coup, Prime Minister Binali Yildirim said on Saturday, warning of rising anti-Americanism if the United States fails to extradite. Yildirim’s comments, at a briefing for local reporters, are the latest to take aim at Turkey’s NATO ally and coincided with a report that an Istanbul prosecutor wrote to US authorities requesting the detention of the cleric, Fethullah Gulen. Turkey says Gulen, who has lived in self-imposed exile in rural Pennsylvania since 1999, masterminded the failed July 15 putsch when a group of rogue soldiers commandeered tanks, warplanes and helicopters in an attempt to overthrow the government. Gulen has denied the charge and condemned the coup.
“There is no compromise apart from this chief terrorist coming to Turkey and being prosecuted,” Yildirim was quoted as saying by state-run Anadolu Agency. “The only way to prevent the rising (negative) sentiment against America is for the US to hand over this man and make sure Turkey’s justice system holds him accountable.”
Turkey’s foreign minister said this week documents had been sent to the United States and that Turkey had received “positive signals” about Gulen’s possible extradition, but Turkey has not said clearly whether it has filed a formal extradition request. The White House said on Saturday that US Vice President Joe Biden will visit Turkey on Aug. 24, the first visit by a high-ranking US official since the failed coup.
Yildirim said a US technical team would visit Turkey on August 22 to discuss legal issues relating to the possible extradition, according to Anadolu. He said Secretary of State John Kerry is due in October, broadcaster CNN Turk reported. Yildirim said he believed there would be a “positive outcome” with the United States on the extradition, Anadolu said.
US officials have said that the United States has a formal process for dealing with extradition requests and that Turkey must provide solid evidence of Gulen’s involvement. The Istanbul chief prosecutor sent a letter to US authorities asking for Gulen’s detention, CNN Turk said.
Turkey’s Justice Ministry passed on the letter, which accused Gulen of 10 charges including attempting to overthrow
the government, to the United States, it said. Gulen said on Friday he would only hand himself over to Turkish authorities if an independent international investigative body first found him guilty.
“If a tenth of the accusations against me are established, I pledge to return to Turkey and serve the heaviest sentence,” he said in an opinion piece in French daily Le Monde.
Ankara has been angered by what it sees as lukewarm condemnation by its Western allies of the abortive putsch against President Tayyip Erdogan and the government, in which more than 240 people died. Yildirim said more than 76,000 officials had been suspended and nearly 5,000 dismissed following the coup, including 3,000 soldiers as well as judges and civil servants
The crackdown has raised concerns in the West that Erdogan is using the purge to crack down on dissent. That response has infuriated Ankara, which accuses the West of showing more concern about the purges than the coup itself.
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On Saturday Turkey pushed back at the UN’s top human rights official, who said this week that Ankara should rein in a “thirst for revenge” in the aftermath of the coup. A foreign ministry spokesman called the remarks from Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, the UN High Commissioner for Human rights, “unacceptable”.
The scope of the crackdown now appears to be even worrying some in the ruling party.
“Even if the shock absorber of a car breaks down, they say someone with (the Gulenists) has done this. This is turning into a witch hunt, losing its credibility,” Deputy Prime Minister Tugrul Turkes, formerly a member of the nationalist opposition party and now a member of the ruling AK Party founded by Erdogan, told CNN Turk.
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