Although ordinarily I respect his cool-headedness and self-control, in hindsight I wish President Obama had been equally blunt in responding to President Erdoğan’s demands that the US extradite Fethullah Gülen. All of his demands, beginning in 2014 and vigorously renewed in the wake of the July 15 attempted coup, have been completely illegitimate and unfair.
Officials aren’t convinced by evidence against Fethullah Gulen, Pennsylvania-based imam who Turkey says masterminded the failed putsch. U.S. officials don’t expect to extradite an imam Turkey blames for masterminding a failed coup because they aren’t convinced by the evidence Ankara has presented so far and are troubled by threatening public statements from Turkish officials, according to people familiar with the discussions.
We don’t know a lot. But what we do know should cause us to ask our elected officials to look carefully at any request for extradition for Fethullah Gulen. We don’t know everything, but we know that the post-coup crackdown has included public appeals “to be protected from the evil things of educated people.” Nearly 60,000 have been detained. Some 1,600 university academic deans have been relieved of their positions.
A Muslim religious leader, Fehullah Gulen, is daily in the news, as Turkish president Erdogan accuses him of plotting the recent coup, calling him a terrorist. We are so used to Muslim clerics being or being considered terrorists that we give the matter little thought.
The Turks need to be reminded that Mr. Gulen has a legal right to be in the United States, and that the Justice Department would have to go through a rigorous process before deciding whether he could be handed over, especially to a country where due process is increasingly unlikely and torture is reportedly used against detainees.
It was July 15. And what was happening, they soon learned, was a military coup. Gulen, who suffers from diabetes and heart disease, was distraught, Simsek said. Realizing “we couldn’t really do anything,” Simsek said, the group began to pray, loudly and together. Several wept. They didn’t stop praying until early the next morning.
The sweeping purges and mass arrests since last month’s failed military coup in Turkey have confirmed many of the worst fears about President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s government. They are the most recent in a long history of abuses. Over the last few years, Mr. Erdogan has harshly repressed the Turkish press and civil society, supported extremist militant groups in Syria
Okumus said he has lots of questions about the origin of the coup, and is suspicious about Erdogan’s motives to blame Gulen. He said the coup has created a kind of with-us-or-against-us mentality in Turkey, one that will ultimately hurt the country and its relations with the United States. Turkish officials have already fired tens of thousands of teachers, university deans and others they say have ties to the failed coup plot.
But while U.S. agency spokesmen are trying to be cautious in what they say, skepticism about Turkey’s claims that Gulen directed the plot are widespread in Washington. Last week, in comments that likely burned a few ears in Ankara, U.S. Director of National Intelligence James Clapper told The Washington Post that he did not believe Turkey had yet offered enough proof to implicate Gulen, who has lived in Pennsylvania’s Poconos region for years.
Turkey is demanding that the U.S. extradite Fethullah Gulen whom Ankara accuses of orchestrating this month’s failed military coup. “The evidence is crystal clear,” PM Yildirim told the Journal Tuesday, adding that Washington’s request for evidence of Mr. Gulen’s guilt is superfluous “when 265 people have been killed.” If that’s Mr. Yildirim’s standard of proof, Washington should deny the request.
By blaming Fethullah Gulen and the Gulen movement for the coup attempt, Mr. Erdogan’s authoritarian tendencies have only increased as witnessed by the tens of thousands arrested and detained, and the radical curtailing of free speech. It now appears that in Mr. Erdogan’s hands Turkey’s future and that of the Middle East will be less democratic, less stable and more tumultuous than ever.