January 14, 2015

US professor urges Washington not to extradite Gülen to Turkey

An American professor from the Columbia University has urged Washington not to extradite Turkish Islamic scholar Fethullah Gülen to Turkey, noting that attacks on Gülen are part of a pattern to silence dissent.

David L. Phillips, director of the Program on Peace-building and Rights, at the Columbia University, said in his piece published in Huffington Post on Tuesday that Turkey asked the Obama administration to extradite Gülen for trial by a Turkish court and urged the US to decline the extradition request. He argued that the attacks on Gülen are part of a pattern to silence dissent, well-documented by Human Rights Watch and the Committee to Protect Journalists.

Last month, a Turkish court issued an arrest warrant for 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. However, the US law requires that the crime be recognized in both country's jurisdictions and that the offense not be political in nature. Erdoğan also personally asked US President Barack Obama to "deport" Gülen.

Recalling that Gülen has been living a in self-imposed exile in rural Pennsylvania since 1999, Phillips said he has milions of members who subscribe to Gülen's message of dialogue and tolerance based on Muslim principles.

Speaking about schools established by Gülen's sympathizers, Phillips said the schools propagate Gülen's message of tolerance. He also included critics who claimed that the schools are used for thought control and recruitment.

The professor said tensions surfaced last year when Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan accused Gülen and his followers of orchestrating a corruption probe against his inner circle. In a subsequent purge, he noted, thousands of police and hundreds of judges and prosecutors were removed from their jobs.

"Playing on conspiratorial fears, Erdoğan justified a crackdown on freedom of assembly and expression. Critics decry Erdoğan's creeping authoritarianism," Phillips said.

He said he is more interested in what Gülen has to say about the Turkish domestic politics. He said the US Congress should invite Gülen to testify and asked about alleged criminal activities of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Party) and Erdoğan, including recent suggestions of ties between Turkey's National Intelligence Agency (MİT) and the Islamic State of Iraq and Levant (ISIL).

Published on Today's Zaman, 13 January 2015, Tuesday