A Washington delegation of prosecutors will visit Turkey this month to assess Ankara’s evidence against Gulen, the founding leader of the Fetullah Terrorist Organisation (FETO).
As Turkey-US relations are warming up on several fronts, from northern Syria to economic cooperation, Ankara's hopes for the extradition of Fetullah Gulen, the founder of the Fetullah Terrorist Organisation (FETO), have recently increased.
The talk of Gulen's extradition is likely to return to mainstream discourse once again, especially with a US delegation slated to visit Turkey next week.
The FETO was behind Turkey’s notorious July 15 coup attempt in 2016, which killed hundreds of civilians and wounded thousands. According to Ankara, the FETO has long infiltrated Turkish state institutions, with a particular focus on reining in security forces, from the army to the police department and justice system.
The coup attempt was the latest part of the group’s aim to take over the whole Turkish state structure according to Ankara. Gulen, a former Turkish citizen and preacher living in the US since 1999, has orchestrated much of the group’s activities.
Washington’s delegation will assess new Turkish evidence against Gulen, with Turkish investigators and prosecutors set to decide on the merits of the extradition request, according to Turkish media reports.
“We hope and believe that the US will fulfill the requirements of being a state which has been led by the rule of law and it will extradite the head of this terrorist organisation (FETO). God willing, the US will comply with our demand in 2019,” said Turkish Justice Minister Abdulhamit Gul on December 30.
The justice minister said that American prosecutors will come to Turkey to see Ankara’s evidence against Gulen in a scheduled visit in early January.
Gul also noted that Washington has showed no signs that it will refuse Turkey’s extradition request. “There is a US administrative inquiry over the issue,” Gul explained.
Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu also pointed out that Gulen’s extradition could be realised soon. “In Argentina, Trump told Erdogan they were working on extraditing Gulen and other people,” said Cavusoglu on December 16, referring to a meeting between the two leaders at the G20 summit in early December.
Ankara says that it has evidence Gulen and his inner circle were behind the failed coup and will share phone records of several people that the group refers to as imams, leaders of different branches of the FETO.
Adil Oksuz, Kemal Batmaz, Hakan Cicek, Harun Binis, and Nurettin Oruc are among the group, according to Ankara’s public prosecutor’s office. On July 15, Oksuz and Cicek were reportedly spotted at Ankara’s Akinci air base, which the coup plotters used as their headquarters to lead the failed putsch.
According to phone records, the FETO imams held preparatory meetings with Gulen in his residence in Pennsylvania during their visits in January, March and June of 2016, discussing the groundwork for the July 15 coup attempt.
In December, Cavusoglu also stated: "There is a serious investigation into the FETO launched by the FBI in 15 US states. Moreover, arrests started in some states, including New Jersey."
He was referring to the charter schools run by the group, which are known to be Gulenists within international circles. Under Gulen’s leadership, his followers have operated a shadowy international network, running hundreds of schools and other organisations across the world.
In 2016, The FBI raided one of the schools on the grounds that it was violating a federal grant programme.
Following the coup attempt, Ankara has closed down more than 1,000 FETO-linked schools across Turkey and also urged the international community to take similar measures against the group, warning that it has other political agendas beyond education.