The US is reviewing a new set of documents received from Turkey for the extradition of Fethullah Gülen, who is accused of having orchestrated the botched coup attempt on July 15 to topple the democratically elected government of Turkey.
Without going into the details of the process, the US State Department said evaluating the evidence presented by Turkey would take time, adding it was not an overnight process. The US had received the first documents from Turkey about 20 days ago.
State Department spokesman Mark Toner said in a press briefing that the US Department of Justice was in the process of determining whether the documents received from Turkey constituted a formal request for Gülen’s extradition.
“The rhetoric coming from Turkey is that they have made a formal request,” he said, adding, “We’re still trying to assess that.”
Toner said the first batch "did not, we believe, constitute a formal extradition request."
"We subsequently received more documents. We're looking through them ... and I don't think they've reached that determination yet," he added.
The US Justice Department is the main agency reviewing the documents to see whether they amount to a formal extradition request for the US-based preacher, who has lived in self-imposed exile in Pennsylvania since 1999.
'Nothing to do with it'
Condemning the failed putsch, Toner said the US had nothing to do with the failed efforts to overthrow the Turkish government and described all such allegations as “absurd”.
"We support that government wholeheartedly as a strong ally and partner in the region," he added.
Ankara says it has, so far, sent two official requests to the US for Gülen’s extradition to Turkey.
The failed coup attempt of July 15 claimed lives of 239 people and left nearly 2,200 others injured.
When asked whether the US Secretary of State John Kerry will visit Turkey later this month, the State Department spokesman said he had "nothing to announce in that regard".
Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Çavuşoğlu later said Kerry would visit Turkey on Aug. 24.
Turkish court issues arrest warrant for Gülen
On Thursday, Turkey issued an arrest warrant in absentia for Gülen on charges of leading the deadly July 15 coup attempt by rogue commanders linked to FETO, a group led by Gülen which Turkey recently placed on the terror list.
The ruling came from an Istanbul court after public prosecutor Can Tuncay requested the arrest warrant for Gülen for the first time since the coup attempt.
The court ruled that FETO targeted Turkey's security units and aimed to change the constitutional order of the state by infiltrating the Turkish Armed Forces on July 15 across the country, particularly in Istanbul and Ankara.
FETO aims to be a worldwide political and economic power, the court ruled, holding it responsible for several crimes committed during the foiled putsch.
The arrest warrant was issued for Gülen on charges of "attempting to overthrow the Turkish government or to prevent it from functioning", "depriving citizens of their liberty by using force, threat or fraud", "attempting to assassinate the president", "attempting to demolish the Turkish parliament with the aim of preventing it from functioning ", "attempting to overthrow the constitutional order" and multiple counts of murder.
Gülen is also accused of implementing a long-running campaign to overthrow the state through the infiltration of Turkish institutions - particularly the military, police, and judiciary - forming what is commonly known as "the parallel state".
In a statement issued later, Fethullah Gülen, denounced the arrest warrant issued by the Turkish court.
US officials don’t expect Gülen’s extradition
US officials do not expect to extradite Gülen as they are not convinced by the evidence presented by Turkey on his involvement in the failed putsch, said a Wall Street Journal report quoting people familiar with the discussions.
The discussions are expected to continue for months as no final decision has yet been made on the issue of Gülen’s extradition to Turkey, the sources told WSJ.
The newspaper further reported that Turkish officials, however, said a full case is yet to be presented to the US for the FETO leader’s extradition.
They said they expect to provide new evidence to the US in the coming weeks which, according to them, will highlight links between Gülen and the coup plotters.