A court has issued an arrest warrant for Fethullah Gülen and requested that the scholar be extradited from the United States, which is seen as a step towards an Interpol Red Notice and ultimately extradition from the US, but US law requires that the crime be recognized in both country's jurisdictions and that the offense not be political in nature.
The First İstanbul Penal Court of Peace decided there was "sufficient tangible evidence" and agreed to issue the warrant for Gülen, a Turkish Islamic preacher who advocates a moderate Islam rooted in modern life. The move was a prelude to a formal request for Gülen's extradition from the United States, where he is living in self-imposed exile in Pennsylvania.
İstanbul public prosecutor Hasan Yılmaz -- who is supervising the investigation that led to the detention of Zaman Editor-in-Chief Ekrem Dumanlı and dozens of others -- issued an arrest warrant for Gülen after an operation targeting journalists, scriptwriters, producers and police officers took place on Dec. 14.
Red Notice no guarantee of deportation
However, issuing an arrest warrant or even managing to issue an Interpol Red Notice offers no guarantee that the person in question will be deported from the country in which they reside, as international law requires that solid evidence be presented to the host country.
The procedure to publish an Interpol Red Notice is a long one. First, a search warrant must be issued by a Turkish court. The court would then inform the Ministry of Justice regarding its decision. The Ministry of Justice would then take the case folder, along with additional information, to the head of the Interpol-Europol-Sirene Department of the National Police Department. This department must then inform Interpol's headquarters, in Lyon, France.
After Interpol performs necessary checks, the application is entered into the Interpol system. The fact that Interpol enters a person's case into the system does not mean that person will be extradited as he or she must be deemed an offender according to the laws of the host country, as well.
Turkey is the country with the highest extradition denial rate within the Interpol network. Also, countries that are part of the network have never extradited a person on charges of terrorism. The member countries of Interpol have always cited "insufficient evidence" as the reason why they do not extradite terror suspects.
As the United States is not a member of Interpol, a Red Notice would not have any binding consequences. For the US to deport Gülen, Turkish authorities would have to submit evidence files directly to the US. If the case is accepted by US authorities, the judicial process would be undertaken by federal courts -- not the political ruling party, as would be the case in Turkey.
The lawyers for the accused would then present their case to the courts on why the person in question should not be deported or extradited. The federal courts then decide whether the person in question would be deported or not.
An existing extradition agreement between Turkey and the US is not completely binding; as a result of the principle of national sovereignty, each government has the right to make its own decisions regarding extraditions.
One of the most important articles of the agreement states: "Extradition shall not be granted: If the offense for which extradition is requested is regarded by the Requested Party to be of a political character or an offense connected with such an offense; or if the Requested Party concludes that the request for extradition has, in fact, been made to prosecute or punish the person sought for an offense of a political character or on account of his political opinions."
What happened on Dec. 17, 2013?
Simultaneous operations were launched on Dec. 17 and 25 as part of a major investigation into alleged bribery linked to public tenders, corruption and bribery. The sons of three ministers, bureaucrats and prominent businessmen, as well as the son of then-Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, were implicated in the scandals.
Erdoğan, who is now serving as president, has accused the faith-based Hizmet movement, which is inspired by the teachings of Gülen, of orchestrating a plot to try to bring down the government. Erdoğan claims that Gülen's followers within the police and judiciary were behind the graft operations.
Gülen, whose teachings have inspired millions of people around the world to forge a powerful socio-religious community active in publishing, charity and above all education, has denied all the charges.
Erdoğan dearly wants extradition
Alp Aslandoğan, a New York-based Turkish academic and close associate of Gülen, told Today's Zaman in an interview on Saturday that the accusations against the scholar are "ludicrous."
“This action -- taken just days after the arrests of many senior journalists, and exactly one year after corruption probes against government officials began -- is nothing more than an attempt to shift public attention away from issues such as corruption, palace scandal, nepotism and efforts to limit press freedoms,” said Aslandoğan, who leads the Alliance of Shared Values, a US-based non-profit organization affiliated with the Hizmet movement.
Nurullah Albayrak, Gülen's lawyer, blasted the government on his Twitter account, writing: “Apparently, there's going to be a Red Notice issued for Hocaefendi [master teacher, referring to Gülen], I guess you [the government] are going to say, ‘He [Gülen] said in one of his sermons to watch out for al-Qaeda.' Pathetic!!"
Albayrak posted another tweet with the picture of a list of the steps needed to be taken for the extradition process. His tweet read: “If the court decides to issue a search warrant, [displayed here are] the steps that would need to be taken for the extradition process. I wonder how they will explain [item] number six.”
The sixth item on the list of the steps that would need to be taken in order to extradite Gülen reads, “Giving statement and guaranteeing that the crime committed is not of a political character.”
NYT: 'Crass and cynical attempt to exploit the law'
The New York Times editorial board published an article titled “Let Mr. Erdogan Fight His Own Battles” in May, where it defined Erdoğan's attempt to get the US to extradite Gülen as “nothing more than a crass and cynical attempt to exploit the law, and Turkey's alliance with the United States, for political payback.”
Erdoğan said during an interview with US-based PBS network host Charlie Rose on April 28, 2014, that the US should extradite Gülen.
That was not the first time Erdoğan raised the issue of extraditing the scholar. In March 2014, Erdoğan said on a Turkish TV program that during a phone call on Feb. 19 he had asked US President Barack Obama for Gülen to be extradited because he represents a threat to Turkey's national security.
Erdoğan then claimed that Obama had viewed this request “positively” and replied by saying, “I got the message.” Later, in an unusual step, the White House issued a statement accusing the then-prime minister of misrepresenting the content of his phone conversation with Obama.
Published on Sunday's Zaman, 21 December 2014, Sunday