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Nephew of U.S.-based cleric captured by Turkish agents

Nephew of U.S.-based cleric captured by Turkish agents
© Aaron Schwartz

The nephew of a U.S.-based cleric who the Turkish government says was responsible for a failed coup in 2016 has reportedly been captured by Turkish agents. 

Turkey’s state-run news outlet, the Anadolu Agency, reported Monday that it had detained Selahaddin Gulen, who was believed to be residing in Kenya, according to The Associated Press

The Turkish news agency said Gulen, the nephew of Fethullah Gulen, faces charges of membership in a terrorist organization. 

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Fethullah Gulen, a former ally of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, has for years been targeted by the Turkish government as the leader of an alleged effort to oust the president. 

In response, Erdoğan has for two years imposed a state of emergency on the country, cracking down on opposition voices and detaining roughly 100,000 people. 

According to The New York Times, the government also purged about 150,000 public employees and prosecuted more than 8,000 military personnel in connection with the alleged coup. 

The Times reported Monday that based on a court affidavit reviewed by the news outlet, Selahaddin Gulen, a Turkish citizen and permanent U.S. resident, had arrived in Kenya on a tourist visa in October. 

While Gulen was reportedly allowed into the country, he was detained by immigration officials based on a “red notice” alert issued by Interpol for “an alleged child molestation case,” though Gulen said he was acquitted of the charges in 2008. 

Days before his scheduled extradition hearing earlier this month, Gulen disappeared while on his way to the Directorate of Criminal Investigations headquarters, his lawyer, Jotham Okome Arwa, told the Times. 

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The reported detainment comes after Erdoğan said earlier this month that Turkey had arrested a senior Gulen movement member. 

“Soon we will announce an important name from the FETO team too,” Erdoğan said on May 19, referring to the acronym the Turkish government uses for the Gulen movement. “He is in our hands right now.’’ 

The Turkish government has sought to target followers of Gulen and for years has demanded the extradition of Gulen himself, who now lives in self-imposed exile in Pennsylvania, though U.S. officials have not indicated a willingness to hand him over. 

While news reports in 2018 had indicated that the Trump administration was examining whether to comply with Turkey’s request to extradite the Muslim cleric, Justice Department and White House officials denied the news, saying at the time that it was not involved or aware of any discussions on the matter.