December 7, 2016

Bipartisan think-tank: The U.S. should not interfere politically in Gülen extradition case

Whatever promises Ankara may make about improving its cooperation with the United States if only it were to hand over Gülen, doing so would only aggravate the dynamics currently disturbing the U.S.-Turkish relationship and damaging Turkey. It is critical that the United States lead by example and demonstrate to Turkey what the proper rule of law looks like. This requires allowing the Gülen extradition process to play out in U.S. courts and according to the provisions of U.S. laws. Any temptation to interfere in this process, in pursuit of patching up ties with Ankara, must be resisted. It would be as counterproductive as it would be disreputable.

Currently, the debate over Gülen’s extradition has already been tainted by the fact that Turkish officials, as well as the Turkish republic, genuinely refuse to believe that the U.S. courts operate independently and outside the power of the executive branch. The result is that, even if the U.S. government, acting in compliance with its own principles, refused to hand over Gülen based on the legally binding decision of a Pennsylvania judge, Turkey would conclude that the decision had been political and respond accordingly. The risk is that if the executive branch were to interfere too forcefully in the Gülen case now, it would only confirm Turkish leaders’ belief that the U.S. system operates on the same corrupt terms as Turkey’s. This would fundamentally affirm Erdoğan’s view that democracy as a value and a practice is a purely cynical discourse used by Western powers to harm Turkey. This will make it impossible for the U.S. administration to explain the inevitable limits of its executive power when future issues arise between Turkey and the United States. Also, Ankara could well demand that the U.S. government end the trial of Reza Zarrab, or assure his acquittal.

Likewise, Ankara could insist that U.S. newspapers publishing articles critical of Turkey be punished as well, just as it already demanded that Germany prosecute a comedian who made fun of Erdoğan on television. Once Washington starts down this road, there will be no satisfying Turkey until the U.S. government becomes as repressive as Erdoğan’s.

Excerpt from Bipartisan Policy Center report: Beyond the Myth of Partnership: Rethinking U.S. Policy Toward Turkey