US working to extradite Turkish cleric

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Ankara, Dec 17 (IANS) A Turkish Minister has said that US President Donald Trump’s administration is working on the extradition of exiled cleric Fethullah Gulen for his alleged role in an attempted coup in Turkey two years ago.

In an interview on Sunday, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu asserted that US President Donald Trump told his Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan at the G20 summit in Argentina this month that Washington was “working on” the extradition of Gulen, reports CNN.

The exiled cleric, 77, has been living in a gated compound in eastern Pennsylvania after leaving Turkey in 1999.

Erdogan has held Gulen responsible for the deadly attempted coup against him in 2016 — a charge the cleric has denied.

However, there’s no sign from Washington that the US is moving towards extraditing Gulen.

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Last month, the State Department said the US had received multiple requests from the Turkish government and continued to evaluate materials presented.

Cavusoglu also claimed that the Federal Bureau of Investigation had evidence that Gulen’s organisation, known as FETO, “had been violating US laws, including tax fraud, visa fraud and also some other illegal activities”.

The FBI however, has not responded to the claim.

Cavusoglu’s remarks have suggested that relations between Ankara and Washington were yet again headed into rough waters after a calmer spell which saw the release of Pastor Andrew Brunson in October after two years in jail and under house arrest, CNN said.

The Minister described Brunson as a CIA agent, but said the Gulen issue and “US support to YPG/PKK in Syria, which are posing threat to our national security”, were more serious issues.

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The YPG (Kurdish militia) has been Washington’s main ally on the ground in northeastern Syria against the Islamic State but is regarded as a terrorist group by Turkey, indistinguishable from Kurdish PKK separatists in Turkey.

Last week, with support from US airstrikes, YPG fighters drove IS out of the town of Hajin.

–IANS

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