A Turkish minister has claimed that US officials haven’t sent Turkey’s requests for the extradition of Islamic cleric Fethullah Gülen, accused by Ankara of masterminding a 2016 coup attempt, to court since they know the verdict would go against Turkey due to a lack of evidence, Turkish Minute reported, citing the local media.
Turkey has sent multiple extradition requests to the US government while pursuing a worldwide crackdown on followers of Gülen in the aftermath of the failed coup on July 15, 2016. US officials have expressed on several occasions that although Turkey presented them with a large quantity of information about Gülen, the files didn’t include sufficiently clear evidence of his involvement in the abortive putsch.
Justice Minister Bekir Bozdağ asserted on the pro-government A Haber TV station on Sunday that US officials had chosen not to send the files on Gülen to court since they “knew the result wouldn’t be in favor of the Justice and Development Party [AKP] government.”
“I’ve met with US officials twice about Gülen. They said, ‘If we send the [request] to the judicial authorities, [the result] will be against you.’ They aren’t submitting the request because they’re thinking of our interests,” Bozdağ claimed.
Gülen, who has been living in the United States since 1999, strongly rejects any involvement in the failed coup and asked for an international investigation into the coup attempt in his statement to the media following the failed putsch.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan also spoke to the press about the issue on the same day, saying that if he had the opportunity to meet with US President Joe Biden on the sidelines of the G20 summit in Bali this week, he would raise again his longstanding demand that they extradite Gülen.
Although Turkey says it has handed over more than 80 boxes of evidence related to the case, it turned out that they included many clippings from newspapers close to Erdoğan and his ruling AKP, Turkish media reports said.
The attempted coup was a false flag, according to many, aimed at entrenching the authoritarian rule of Erdoğan by rooting out dissidents and eliminating powerful actors such as the military in his desire for absolute power.
The failed coup killed 251 people and injured more than a thousand others. After announcing the next morning that the coup had been crushed, the Turkish government immediately began a sweeping purge of military officers, judges, police, teachers and other state employees, ultimately leading to the dismissal of more than 130,000 civil servants and nearly 30,000 members of the military.
On the night of the abortive putsch, President Erdoğan immediately blamed the Gülen movement for the attempt. He has targeted followers of the movement, a faith-based group inspired by Gülen, since the Dec. 17-25, 2013 corruption investigations involving then-prime minister Erdoğan, his family members and his inner circle.
Erdoğan, who dismissed the investigation as a Gülenist coup and a conspiracy against his government, labeled the movement a terrorist organization and began targeting its members. He jailed thousands, including many prosecutors, judges and police officers involved in the investigation as well as journalists who reported on it.
After the coup attempt, Erdoğan stepped up the crackdown on the movement. Gülen and the movement strongly deny involvement in the failed coup or in any terrorist activities.