September 5, 2014

Lawyer: Demand for Gülen's extradition legal matter, not political

Amid Turkish media reports that President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan will seek the extradition of Islamic scholar Fethullah Gülen from US President Barack Obama during a meeting at the NATO Summit, Gülen's lawyer criticized the potential move, saying that such a process is not a political matter but a legal one.

Gülen's lawyer, Nurullah Albayrak, also noted that no investigation has been launched against his client, who legally resides in Pennsylvania. Albayrak issued a written statement on Friday after multiple newspapers in Turkey ran headlines regarding Erdoğan's demand from Obama.

Initiating an investigation and issuing arrest warrants are legal procedures, said Gülen's lawyer, who called Erdoğan's talk of seeking the Islamic scholar's extradition to be inappropriate, especially during a diplomatic summit, where the Turkish government's fight against the Hizmet movement has no place.

While on his flight to Wales for the summit, Erdoğan told reporters that the "parallel structure," an expression he uses to describe Gülen supporters within the state apparatus, would be among the subjects he will discuss with Obama.

"Deport him or give him to us," the pro-government Yeni Şafak and other newspapers quoted Erdoğan as saying of Gülen. "Let him come and live in his own country if he says he hasn't committed a crime."

Gülen's lawyer, however, reiterated that as he has stated several times since the allegations against Gülen began, not a single piece of evidence has been presented against the Islamic scholar. According to his lawyer, treating Gülen as a suspect is a violation of basic principles of law.

In Albayrak's statement, the lawyer also directed attention to the discrepancy between the agenda of the NATO summit and Erdoğan's demands. He said he cannot comprehend why the president would make such a demand when there are more pressing issues to discuss, such as the 49 Turkish citizens who were taken hostage by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL).

Indeed, the extensive coverage of the president's talk of extradition by mostly pro-government media outlets is not new. Erdoğan, speaking on the Turkish ATV network in March had said that during a phone call with President Obama on Feb. 19, he had asked for Gülen to be extradited because he was a threat to Turkey's national security. Erdoğan claimed that Obama had viewed this request “positively” and replied by saying, “I got the message.”

In an unusual statement, the White House had accused Erdoğan of misrepresenting the content of his phone conversation with Obama.

Albayrak added that in the United States it is not the president but the judiciary who makes decisions on the extradition of individuals. “In democratic countries, no legal actions are taken during chats,” Albayrak said, noting that Erdoğan's statements have no legal basis.

Erdoğan says Gülen's followers orchestrated a corruption probe that went public last December against his inner circle. The government in response has purged thousands of police officers and hundreds of judges and prosecutors.

Gülen's lawyer said that this was illegal profiling of innocent people by the government, and described it as a “witch hunt." He added that witnessing such hate speech is unfortunate for Turkey.

According to Albayrak, Gülen has been in the public's eye for half a century and the figure is against any illegal entity or movement.

Published on Today's Zaman, 05 September 2014, Friday

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