Gulen’s Lawyers: Embattled Turkish Cleric Not Going Anywhere

Gulen’s Lawyers: Embattled Turkish Cleric Not Going Anywhere

Lawyers representing U.S.-based cleric Fethullah Gulen lampooned the Turkish government on Friday, calling Ankara’s allegations that the 75-year-old imam helped orchestrate the failed July 15 coup “absurd” and “crazy.”

“Mr Gulen had not one thing to do with it,” Reid Weingarten, a partner at the firm of Steptoe & Johnson, said at a press conference in Washington. “Mr Gulen should not, and will not, be extradited.”

A court in Turkey issued a formal arrest warrant for Gulen on Thursday, accusing him of being behind the coup that caused the deaths of more than 270 people and involved military units blocking bridges and bombing government offices.

Weingarten repeatedly referred to Gulen as “frail” and “elderly,” and said the odds of him masterminding a coup from his compound in the middle of the Pocono mountains in Pennsylvania were “about as likely” as a meteor hitting his Washington law office in the middle of the press conference.

The Turkish Embassy in Washington did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

In the wake of the abortive coup, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has ordered a crackdown on the alleged plotters, detaining, arresting and firing tens of thousands of military officials, prosecutors, judges, journalists and teachers. He has also ordered a state of emergency and said U.S.-Turkish relations could be jeopardized if Washington doesn’t extradite Gulen to Turkey, a position many Turkish political parties, including opposition politicians, support.

But Gulen’s lawyers expressed confidence in the U.S. Justice Department and said they took “great comfort” in a Thursday Wall Street Journal report citing U.S. officials who were unconvinced by Turkey’s case.

“We understand and believe the people making the decisions in the U.S. government know full well what the rules are and we have entire confidence in them that they will act appropriately,” said Weingarten.

Describing the obstacles confronting Turkish officials in extraditing Gulen, Weingarten noted that they would have to meet the Justice Department’s bar for probable cause and then go to court in Pennsylvania to persuade a magistrate that the probable cause standard is met. If those hurdles are surmounted, Ankara would then have to convince the State Department that Gulen will receive a fair legal process in Turkey — outcomes Weingarten said were unlikely.

Despite his confidence, he said he was concerned about Gulen’s safety and is discussing whether to request security assistance from U.S. authorities.

Gulen, a onetime political ally of Erdogan, controls a billion-dollar network of banks, media companies, and construction firms. He has also inspired leaders of charter schools and universities around the world, which Ankara is asking authorities in foreign countries to investigate.