Turkish president to demand Biden extradite alleged coup plotter

Turkish president to demand Biden extradite alleged coup plotter
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Turkey’s president will tell Vice President Biden on Wednesday that the U.S. has an obligation to extradite the man accused of leading last month’s failed coup, as Biden visits the Turkish capital.

Washington has “no excuse” for failing to hand over the cleric, Fethullah Gülen, who has lived in self-imposed exile in Pennsylvania since 1999, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said Wednesday.

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"If a country wants a criminal in your country to be extradited, you have no rights to argue with that," Erdogan said, according to Reuters.

Turkey submitted four separate extraditions requests for Gülen — a onetime ally of Erdogan before the two had a falling out — in the wake of the failed coup in July. However, the new requests were not specific to allegations that Gülen orchestrated the uprising from afar, the State Department claimed on Tuesday.

Gülen has denied any involvement in last month’s unsuccessful takeover of Ankara, during which 240 people were killed. Erdoğan has launched a massive crackdown on suspected political opponents and subversive operatives in the wake of the July 15 event.

The issue has the potential to act as a wedge between the U.S. and Turkey, a NATO ally that shares a border with Syria and has filled a key role in trying to stem the chaos there. On Wednesday, Turkish forces launched a major offensive in Syria against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS).

The Obama administration has been reluctant to hand over Gülen.

Turkish officials have “provided no evidence to us at all of Gülen’s possible connections to the coup,” a senior administration official told reporters Wednesday, as Biden arrived in Turkey.

Nonetheless, the Justice Department is taking the request “very seriously,” the official added, noting that the matter is not up to the White House.

Legal officials at the Justice and State Departments are “poring over boxes to see if [the case] crosses the evidentiary threshold of probable cause for extradition under our treaty,” the official said, adding, “If so, then [it] goes to an independent court for decision."

“There are some unreasonable expectations, in the sense that nothing would be permanently reassuring unless Gülen [were] on the plane and we were delivering him.”

In Turkey, Biden on Wednesday toured the parliament, which was damaged during the coup attempt, and met with Prime Minister Binali Yıldırım.