Turkey denies $15m plot to kidnap US-based Gulen

Turkey denies $15m plot to kidnap US-based Gulen
Turkey has rejected US reports claiming it had offered several million dollars to extradite US-based cleric Fethullah Gulen.
2 min read
12 November, 2017
Turkey accuses the US-based cleric of masterminding the 2016 failed coup [AFP]
Turkey has rejected as "ludicrous" allegations that it offered several million dollars to the United States to extradite a political rival to President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

"All allegations that Turkey would resort to means external to the rule of law for his extradition are utterly false, ludicrous and groundless", Turkey's embassy in Washington said on Twitter Saturday.

The comments come amid US media reports that investigators in Washington are probing whether former White House national security advisor Michael Flynn discussed expelling Muslim preacher Fethullah Gulen in exchange for a secret payout.

On Friday, NBC News and the Wall Street Journal said US special prosecutor Robert Mueller is examining a meeting Flynn had with senior Turkish officials weeks after Donald Trump won the presidential race last year.

The meeting allegedly discussed a secret payout of up to $15 million dollars if, once in office, Flynn would engineer the deportation to Turkey of Gulen as well as help free Erdogan-linked Iranian-Turkish businessman Reza Zarrab from prison.

NBC and the Journal both cited multiple people familiar with the probe by Mueller, who is leading the investigation into whether members of Trump's campaign colluded with Russian meddling in the election.

The Journal said it is not clear how far the proposal went and that there was no sign that any payments were made.

In July, New York Times reported members of Mueller's investigation team were probing the origin of $530,000 received by Flynn's consultancy business, the Flynn Intel Group, to discover whether Turkey's government paid him to lobby against the exiled cleric. 

Taking funds from a foreign government is not illegal, but failing to register it is - and any attempts to cover it up could lead to fraud charges.

Flynn, a retired lieutenant general who was previously head of the Defense Intelligence Agency, became the White House national security advisor after Trump took office on January 20, 2017.

But he was forced to resign three weeks later over his Russia contacts.

Lawyers for Flynn have labelled the allegations "outrageous" and "false". 

According to the two reports, the discussions included details of how Gulen could be flown secretly by private jet to the isolated Turkish prison island of Imrali.

Ankara blames Gulen's movement for the July 15, 2016 failed coup against Erdogan, and has pressed for his extradition from the United States, where he has lived since 1999.

Gulen, who has a large Turkish following, strongly denies the charges.