Turkey asks US to arrest Gulen for 'ordering coup'

Turkey asks US to arrest Gulen for 'ordering coup'
Ankara has formally requested the US extradite Pennsylvania-based Muslim preacher Fethullah Gulen for masterminding the 15 July failed coup attempt against the Turkish government.
3 min read
13 September, 2016
Turkey claims Gulen was the mastermind of the 15 July failed coup attempt [AFP]

Turkey has officially asked the US to arrest the alleged mastermind of the 15 July failed coup attempt, state media reported on Tuesday.

Justice ministry officials said they sent a formal written request to counterparts in Washington demanding the arrest of Fethullah Gulen on charges of "ordering and commanding the attempted coup", the Anadolu news agency reported.

The formal request claimed that the Pennsylvania-based Islamic preacher "gave orders and commanded" the violent coup, which left over 270 dead and triggered a massive crackdown against opposition.

Ankara has on several occasions asked the US authorities informally to extradite Gulen, sending them documents that allegedly show evidence of his involvement in the putsch.

Late last month, Turkey formally asked the US to hand over the cleric, but this request did not mention Gulen's links to the coup.

Earlier in August, an Istanbul court issued a formal arrest warrant for Gulen, who has denied any involvement in the botched coup.

When US Vice President Joe Biden visited Ankara several weeks later, he said he understood the "intense feeling" in Turkey over Gulen.

The US has "no, no, no, no interest whatsoever in protecting anyone who has done harm to an ally. None", he said.

"But we need to meet the legal standard requirement under our law," he added.

During a meeting with Biden in August, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said that based on the the extradition agreement between the US and Turkey, "these types of people should at least be detained, arrested and kept under surveillance. Yet that individual is still directing his terrorist organisation from his whereabouts".

Earlier this month, US President Barack Obama said his country was committed to bringing the perpetrators of the attempted coup to justice.

The formal request claimed that the Pennsylvania-based Islamic preacher "gave orders and commanded" the violent coup.

"We will make sure that those who carried out these activities are brought to justice," he said at talks with Erdogan on the sidelines of the G20 summit.

US officials insist they will extradite Gulen if Turkey can present proof he was actually involved.

Since July, Ankara has detained, removed, or arrested tens of thousands of people within the judiciary, military, education system and police force for alleged links to Gulen's movement or the coup itself.

US-Turkey tensions have also been strained by Turkey's bombing of Kurdish positions in northern Syria.

The targets included Kurdish groups that are backed by Washington and seen by it as integral to the fight against the Islamic State group.

Ankara accuses them of being in league with the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), a group which has claimed responsibility for deadly attacks inside Turkey.

Agencies contributed to this report.