Turkey asks US to arrest Turkish expatriate Fethullah Gulen

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Turkish anti-coup citizens climb onto a military tank.

In the wake of the failed Turkish coup on July 15th, when the military tried to take over government buildings while President and strongman Recep Erdogan was vacationing near Marmaris, the government crackdown on dissent has been widespread.

And Turkey as well as Erdogan have been insistent that Pennsylvania-based former imam Fethullah Gulen is partially to blame for the coup, but Gulen insists that he had no involvement. Gulen, who was ‘allies’ with Erdogan before December 2013, found himself as a target for Erdogan when he was accused of being behind a corruption investigation of the government.

The US has yet to officially declare whether Gulen will be extradited, and Turkey claims to have sent a wealth of information to the US that proves Gulen and the Gulen movement were behind the coup.

Secretary of State John Kerry was tight-lipped about what the US will be doing, saying there was no reason for the US government to protect someone who had committed wrong-doing to an ally.

“But we need to meet the legal standard requirement under our law,” Kerry said.

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Fethullah Gulen. Picture courtesy of the Wall Street Journal.

Gulen is behind the Gulen Movement, a transnational religious and social movement that advocates scientific advancement and interfaith dialogue, despite being somewhat socially conservative. Gulen is the head and chief advocate for the movement, which has no official structure. The movement also is associated with a large number of private schools, with up to 120 schools in just the US. The schools have a focus on science and math, and also teach about Turkish culture and emphasize learning the Turkish language. If you want to learn more about the Gulen movement, the Wikipedia page is fairly fleshed out.

Despite the group’s apparent harmlessness, Turkey has declared them a terrorist organization.

Gulen claims that the reason for the crackdown has nothing to do with terrorism, and that it is only because they did not agree to support Erdogan’s policies that they are being sought after.

“Mr Erdogan put pressure on me and [Gulen movement] sympathizers to publicly support his idea of a presidential system. He increased the pressure by supporting government-funded alternatives to [Gulen Movement] institutions and then began threatening to close them down,” Gulen said on his website. “If we complied with his demand and became loyalists, we would be enjoying the Turkish government’s favors now. But we declined and we have been facing their wrath for the last three years.”

Gulen said on his website that he thinks that the US will uphold its values on freedom of speech and not extradite him. But if they do, Gulen says he will buy the ticket himself.

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