Turkish PM: We did not ask US for evidence of Sept. 11

Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yıldırım

Amid reports that Turkey may have offered $15 million to a former adviser of US President Donald Trump to illegally remove Islamic scholar Fethullah Gülen to Turkey, Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yıldırım criticized Washington for not taking steps on Gülen’s extradition, telling Fareed Zakaria on Sunday’s “GPS” that Ankara did not ask the Americans for evidence of the Sept. 11, 2001 terror
attack.

“On July 15 we had a coup attempt, similar to 9/11 in the United States. When President Bush announced that the US was under attack, Turkey was the first country to offer to help and send the army to Afghanistan. We didn’t ask who was behind this. The United States said this was al-Qaeda behind this attack, al-Qaeda is responsible. Nobody asked the United States ‘Is there any evidence that al-Qaeda did so’,” Yıldırım said, in a pivot from Zakaria’s assertion that the evidence provided by Turkey for Gülen’s extradition was reportedly “not particularly strong, not conclusive … very sparse.”

The Wall Street Journal reported on Friday an alleged plan that involved former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn to forcibly remove Gülen in return for millions of dollars is being investigated by Special Counsel Robert Mueller. Michael Flynn and his son, Michael Flynn Jr., were to be paid as much as $15 million to hand Gülen over to the Turkish government under the alleged proposal, according to people with knowledge of discussions Flynn had with Turkish representatives during a reported meeting in December at the 21 Club in New York City.

Zakaria asked Yıldırım if Turkey had expected the Trump administration to take action on the extradition of Gülen in light of the fact that Flynn, the national security advisor, had been working “with the Turkish government, for the Turkish government” and advocating his extradition. Yıldırım said they expected it to happen but added that as time went on, they saw that there were no signals that extradition was “in place.” Yıldırım also denied that his government had dealt with Flynn on the Gülen issue, saying it was a matter between the justice ministries of the two countries.

The Turkish Embassy in Washington has also issued a statement saying that “all allegations that Turkey would resort to means external to the rule of law for his extradition are utterly false, ludicrous and groundless” and demanding his legal extradition.

Repeating the Turkish government’s unsubstantiated claims of Gülen having orchestrated the failed coup, the embassy said in its statement: “The fact that Fetullah Gulen who is the mastermind behind all these crimes continues to find refuge in the United States remains, perplexing and deeply frustrating for the Turkish people. … The Government of the Republic of Turkey and the Turkish people expect the immediate extradition of Fetullah Gulen from the United States to Turkey, so that he can stand trial.”

When earlier asked by foreign reporters whether the US was involved in last year’s July 15 coup attempt, Yıldırım said there was a ‘prevalent opinion’; among the Turkish people that America was behind it, in particular because the US had not taken any steps regarding the extradition of Gülen. “We [the government] did not establish this opinion,” he stressed.

Then-Minister of Labor and Social Security Süleyman Soylu stated on July 19, 2016 that the US was behind the coup attempt.

The İstanbul Chief Public Prosecutor in April launched an investigation into 17 prominent US figures including Senator Chuck Schumer, former US Attorney for the Southern District of New York Preet Bharara and former CIA Director John Brenan for alleged links to the faith-based Gülen movement.

Burhan Kuzu, a member of the ruling Justice and Development Party’s (AKP) Central Decision and Executive Board (MKYK) and an AKP İstanbul deputy, on Aug. 20 called on prosecutors to investigate İncirlik Airbase, used by NATO, over Turkey’s botched coup attempt last summer. Gülen is accused by President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan of masterminding a failed coup in Turkey on July 15, 2016. Gülen and the movement he inspired have denied any involvement in the putsch.

Contrary to accusations made by President Erdoğan and the Turkish government, the Foreign Affairs Committee of the UK Parliament concluded in March that Gülen and the movement he inspired as a whole were not behind the failed coup in Turkey.

The UK Parliament statement came a week after Germany rejected Erdoğan and the Turkish government’s accusations against the Gülen movement about July 15.

The head of Germany’s Federal Intelligence Service (BND), Bruno Kahl, said Turkey could not convince them that US-based Turkish-Islamic scholar Gülen was behind the failed coup in July.

Similarly, Devin Nunes, chairman of United States House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, said he had not seen any evidence showing Gülen’s involvement in the putsch in Turkey.

In addition, a report prepared by the EU Intelligence Analysis Centre (IntCen) revealed that the coup attempt was staged by a range of Erdoğan’s opponents due to fears of an impending purge. (SCF with turkishminute.com)

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