The United States Should Extradite Fetullah Gülen
It is clear to the government of Turkey that the Pennsylvania cleric is a coup plotter. Donald Trump should honor our request to bring him to justice.
In the 10 months since the traumatic coup attempt in my country, Turkey has vigorously investigated the perpetrators of this attack on our democracy, our national security, and our people. Some 249 Turks died in the coup attempt, and more than 2,000 were wounded. We are determined to bring the perpetrators of this crime to justice.
Even as our Parliament, presidential palace, and police headquarters came under fire — and as Turks rallied in the streets and stood before the tanks — Turkish prosecutors began their work to understand who was behind the coup. Irrefutable evidence quickly emerged pointing to the Fetullahist Terror Organization (FETÖ) — a dangerous clandestine group within Turkey, the United States, and other countries around the world that has been nurtured by Fetullah Gülen over the past 40 years. Gülen today lives on an estate in Saylorsburg, Pennsylvania.
The July 15 coup attempt was different from earlier coups d’etat in our history. This time, the top brass of the Turkish military and an overwhelming majority of the armed forces firmly stood against the attempted overthrow of Turkey’s democratically elected government. The plotters turned out to be civilian and military members of FETÖ.
The most infamous civilian plotters are Turkish theology professor Adil Oksuz and Kemal Batmaz, the former general manager of a group of companies linked to Gülen himself and to the company that owns Gülen’s Pennsylvania estate. As the coup unfolded, both Oksuz and Batmaz were present at the headquarters of the coup attempt, the Akıncılar Air Base near Ankara.
Turkish prosecutors have also established that Öksüz and Batmaz traveled together to the United States on July 11 and returned to Turkey on July 13, two days prior to the coup attempt.
Batmaz is now under arrest, and Öksüz is on the run. American authorities cancelled Öksüz’s visa on July 21, while he was fleeing the law. But his family members continue to reside in the United States.
As these already widely known facts and many more in the indictments presented to courts in Turkey reveal, there is more than enough smoke to see the fire. Gülen and FETÖ represent a grave and imminent threat to Turkey’s national security and constitutional order.
Yet, today, the hydra-like Gülenist network is present in more than 160 countries. With its nerve center in Pennsylvania, its tentacles reach far and wide, exploiting poverty, fear, democratic deficits, and corruption. The responsibility for collecting evidence regarding these nefarious activities falls largely on the U.S. authorities, since Gülen and his close circle remain untouched in the United States.
Gülen and those in his network continue to run schools and profit from shady business transactions in the United States. They spread their propaganda from their safe haven in Pennsylvania — even as they are funded from federal, state, and local budgets through running an extensive network of charter schools. Turkish Gülenists immigrate to the United States to work in the schools, and are even invited to Congress to lecture U.S. policymakers on Turkey and Turkish-U.S. relations.
This is happening because Fetullah Gülen remains free. The legal groundwork for Gülen’s extradition — the Turkey-U.S. extradition agreement signed in 1979 — already exists. Accordingly, the Turkish Justice Ministry sent a request to the U.S. attorney general on July 19, four days after the coup, for the temporary arrest of Gülen based on four prosecutions in progress since 2014 and 2015. Fifty-one files of evidence collected during these investigations were also submitted to U.S. authorities on July 22, together with a request for Gulen’s extradition to Turkey. An additional provisional arrest warrant was communicated to U.S. authorities on September 12, this time flowing from the judicial investigation of July 15 coup plot.
The U.S. government is considering our request, but time is passing. For victims of FETÖ, justice delayed is justice denied. The Turkish people want Gülen to answer essential questions under oath, such as the source of his wealth, the financing of his network, his ties to former police officers who conspired to assassinate journalists, and his links with the coup plotters.
Turkey sees the United States as an ally that has been at the forefront of defending democracy and the rule of law. Turkey stood by its ally, at times incurring heavy costs, when the United States faced grave threats to its national security. For many decades, Turkey and the United States stood shoulder-to-shoulder in combating terrorism and organized crime. We are fighting against al Qaeda and Daesh in Syria and Iraq, and countering extremism of all kinds across the globe together.
Fetullah Gülen, who was declared by his cult as the “Imam of the Universe,” has attempted to destroy democracy in Turkey. The people of Turkey expect the U.S. authorities to take effective legal measures against this threat to our security and democracy, as an ally should.
Photo credit: ARIS MESSINIS/AFP/Getty Images