Lawyers representing U.S.-based Muslim cleric Fethullah Gulen said that Turkey has not provided evidence of his involvement in last month's failed military coup attempt, and he "should not and will not be extradited."
Speaking to reporters Friday in Washington, one of Gulen's attorneys, Reid Weingarten, said the "complexity and absurdity" of conspiracy allegations linking Gulen and the CIA to the attempted coup have intensified. This week, three Turkish ministers visited the U.S. to put pressure on the government to extradite Gulen.
"...[O]n top of the absurdity of the allegations, we see official acts by the Turkish government that cause us some concern,” Weingarten said. “We see that three ministers have come over, from our perspective, to try to put the arm on the United States to comply with this extradition request."
Washington has stated that Turkey must present evidence of the cleric's involvement in order for the extradition process to begin. Turkey, however, has not provided such evidence, Weingarten said.
"Extradition is fundamentally a legal process. We are lawyers and we deal with evidence and we deal with due process and — guess what? — in extradition proceedings, evidence matters and due process matters," he said.
In light of post-coup purges in Turkey, Weingarten questioned the possibility of a fair trial for Gulen in the country.
"Is there any chance in the world that Mr. Gulen would get a fair trial in Turkey if he is extradited?” Weingarten said. “How about those 70,000 people to date who have been detained and/or fired? And due process going on over there as far as anybody is concerned? It would be unprecedented and appalling if the United States took a frail, almost octogenarian [and] plopped him on a plane to go back into that kind of setting with the hideous things that are being said about him by the entire Turkish government.
“Bottom line here is that the bluster, the conspiracy theories and the threats of [Turkish President] Mr. [Recep Tayyip] Erdogan are not strong enough to overwhelm the American legal system and, for that reason, we believe that Mr. Gulen should not and will not be extradited."
Turkey's ruling party ordered an "urgent cleanup in the party organization," expelling those linked to the so-called Fethullah Terrorist Organization (FETO).
Speaking alongside his Kazakh counterpart Friday in Ankara, Erdogan warned that followers of Gulen could threaten security in other countries.
Erdogan said he did not want them to experience the same "pain, betrayal and disappointment" as Turkey.
Speaking to leaders of chambers of commerce in Ankara earlier Thursday, Erdogan had said his government was "determined to totally cut off all business links of this organization, which has blood on its hands."
He also said "every cent" that goes to FETO is "a bullet placed in the barrel to be fired against this nation."
Gulen reacts to warrant
Gulen denounced the arrest warrant issued Thursday in Turkey that accused him of masterminding the failed coup.
"It is well-documented that the Turkish court system is without judicial independence, so this warrant is yet another example of President Erdogan's drive for authoritarianism and away from democracy," Gulen said in a statement.
"The issuance of an arrest warrant from a Turkish court changes nothing about my status or my views," Gulen said.
The Turkish government has said Gulen, a former ally of Erdogan, masterminded the coup by renegade officers in the military and has called on the U.S. to extradite him to Turkey. Ankara, however, has not filed a formal extradition request.
Gulen has denied any involvement in or prior knowledge of the military coup attempt and has condemned it.
Nearly 70,000 people in the military, judiciary, civil service and education system have been detained, suspended or placed under investigation following the July 15 coup attempt, prompting fears that Erdogan is using the event to crack down on dissent.
More than 270 people, not including coup plotters, died and thousands were wounded as mutinous soldiers commandeered fighter jets, helicopters and tanks in the failed attempt to topple the government.
Published on Voice of America, 5 August 2016, Friday