US under Trump still highly unlikely to extradite Gülen

Turkish Islamic scholar Fethullah Gülen.
Turkish Islamic scholar Fethullah Gülen.


Date posted: January 27, 2017

Nick Ashdown

There’s both hope and trepidation in Ankara about the Trump Administration as relations between Turkey and the United States have reached a dangerously low point.

“A bit [of a crisis] would be an underestimation,” says Kemal Kirişci, director of the Turkey Project at the Brookings Institution, describing the current state of relations.

The deterioration is mostly due to two issues. The first is American support for the Democratic Union Party (PYD), a Syrian Kurdish militant group and offshoot of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), which is considered a terrorist organization by the United States and the European Union.


Ömer Taşpınar, professor at the National War College and senior fellow at the Brookings Institution says extradition remains unlikely because Ankara has presented no concrete evidence directly implicating him in the coup attempt. “I think what [Washington] should do is to basically tell the Turks they need a smoking gun. They need much clearer evidence, which is not there yet,” he says.


The second issue is Washington’s perceived sheltering of Fethullah Gülen, an American resident and leader of a global Islamic movement who Ankara accuses of having organized the failed military coup last summer.

Officials in Ankara are particularly optimistic that the Trump Administration will take legal action against Gülen. Trump’s National Security Advisor Michael Flynn, whose consulting firm allegedly received money from a company close to the Turkish government, has recommended that Washington extradites Gülen.

“On the Gülen issue, there’s an expectation that a Trump Administration would be more amenable to meet Turkey’s demands,” Ülgen says. “The expectation is that the US will at least initiate the judicial review so that we can claim a formal procedure for the extradition of Gülen has started.”

But Ömer Taşpınar, professor at the National War College and senior fellow at the Brookings Institution says extradition remains unlikely because Ankara has presented no concrete evidence directly implicating him in the coup attempt.

“Absent a trail of evidence, it would be very difficult for a court to extradite him,” Taşpınar says. “I think what [Washington] should do is to basically tell the Turks they need a smoking gun. They need much clearer evidence, which is not there yet.”

Furthermore, Turkey is facing serious accusations from Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch of torture and other major human rights abuses during the post-failed coup purges, which makes Gülen’s extradition even less likely.

“Turkey right now is not projecting the image of a country to where you can extradite someone,” Kirişci says.

There’s also worry that the Trump Administration may be less concerned with human rights violations in Turkey and elsewhere than previous administrations.

Taşpınar says the Trump Administration should be very worried over Turkey’s re-alignment away from its Western partners towards Russia and Eurasia.

“I used to think Turkey was bluffing on the Russian thing and that it’s basically trying to gain leverage with the West by flirting with Russia, but I think it’s more than flirting now. It’s bordering on realignment of strategic priorities, mainly because of the Kurdish question.”

Taşpınar says the most important issue facing Turkey is the Kurdish conflict, and that Washington needs to focus on this.

“There should be a US strategy prioritizing stronger military and diplomatic engagement with Turkey, but this should be conditional on improvement of Turkey’s relations with the Kurds, [and] on a peace process with the PKK,” he says.

“It’s certainly in the US interest that Turkey does so.”

Taşpınar says both Turkey and the US will likely remain firmly committed to NATO, and that Trump’s statements calling the alliance obsolete should be taken with a grain of salt.

Source: The Media Line , January 26, 2017


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