Turkey Calls on Washington to Extradite Erdogan Foe

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Published Friday, February 6, 2015

Turkey on Thursday made a new call for Washington to extradite the US-based Turkish preacher Fethullah Gulen, as Ankara steps up its campaign against President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s foe.

Erdogan, who consolidated his power further in moving from the prime minister's office to the presidency in August, accuses Gulen of establishing a "parallel state" within the state through his supporters in the judiciary, police and other state institutions, as well as wielding influence through the media.

In December, alluding to an international conspiracy, Erdogan claimed the "parallel structure" was targeting Turkey's stability, independence and economy.

"I want my dear nation to know that we are not just faced with a simple network, but one which is a pawn of national and international evil forces," he said.

In an intensification of the campaign against his movement, Turkish banking authorities this week seized control of Bank Asya, an Islamic bank founded by followers of Gulen.

"Of course he should be extradited. There is already an agreement between Turkey and the United States. There are international treaties," Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said, quoted by the official Anatolia news agency.

"We are working in close cooperation with the United States on this matter," he said in the southern city of Antalya, without elaborating.

Turkey and the United States signed an extradition treaty in 1979, but legal experts say that a crime requiring extradition must be recognized in both countries.

In December, an Istanbul court issued an arrest warrant for Gulen, accusing him of setting up and directing an "armed terrorist organization."

But the United States has so far paid little attention to repeated requests from Turkey for Gulen's extradition from his secluded compound in the state of Pennsylvania.

Gulen leads a broad powerful movement known as Hizmet (Service), believed to be supported by millions of Turks and which brings together interests ranging from finance to schools to media.

The cleric, 73, was once a close ally of the Islamic-rooted government and Erdogan. But the authorities blamed Gulen for corruption allegations that rocked Erdogan's government in December 2013 while he was prime minister.

Gulen, who left for the US in 1999 to escape charges of anti-secular activities by the government at the time, has denied being behind the graft allegations against Erdogan.

Erdogan's opponents had denounced the seizure of Bank Asya as a blatant political maneuver against Gulen. But the government vehemently denied this was the case.

Prime Minister Ahmet Davuotglu on Thursday denied any political meddling, saying the decision to seize the bank was "completely legal."

In a rare opinion piece published in the New York Times Tuesday, Gulen accused Turkey's leaders of "leading the country toward totalitarianism” and the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) of a clampdown on civil society.

"The AKP's leaders now depict every democratic criticism of them as an attack on the state," Gulen wrote in the piece entitled "Turkey's Eroding Democracy.”

"By viewing every critical voice as an enemy — or worse, a traitor — they are leading the country toward totalitarianism."

He acknowledged that Hizmet once supported the AKP, but said its members were now victims of a "witch hunt.”

A newspaper, Zaman, and television channel, Samanyolu television, loyal to Gulen, were targeted by police raids in December, prompting the European Union to accuse Ankara of eroding press freedoms.

(AFP, Al-Akhbar)

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