White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest insisted Monday claims the United States is harboring an Islamic cleric involved in the attempted Turkish coup are completely false.
“To suggest that the U.S. is harboring Mr. Gulen is factually incorrect,” Earnest told reporters Monday.
Turkish President Recep Tayip Erdogan has pointed to cleric Fethullah Gulen, who lives in the mountains of Pennsylvania, as the key driver behind the attempted overthrow of the government over the weekend, which Erdogan is in the process of brutally ending, The Washington Examiner reports.
Gulen has denied any involvement whatsoever and condemned the coup in no uncertain terms, but that hasn’t prevented Erdogan from calling for the U.S. to ship him to Turkey. On Saturday, Erdogan stated, “Either arrest Fethullah Gulen or return him to Turkey. You didn’t listen. I call on you again, after there was a coup attempt, extradite this man in Pennsylvania to Turkey. If we are strategic partners or model partners, do what is necessary.”
But on Saturday, Earnest said the U.S. hadn’t even received an actual request for extradition from Ankara.
Earnest added that if the U.S. does receive a request, that request “will be carefully considered within that context of the extradition treaty that has been on the books for 30 years now.”
Consideration includes two clear factors. First, there has to be evidence Gulen was involved in the attempted coup in Turkey. And second, any evidence that is available must has to meet the standard set out in the extradition treaty.
“We’re prepared to use our resources to help them investigate. It’s an example of our commitment to due process and rule of law, and it’s what we encouraged the Erdogan government to pursue as well,” Earnest said.
Gulen has lived in Pennsylvania since 1999. He’s said that if the U.S. rules in Turkey’s favor on an extradition request, he would comply, although Gulen added he believes Erdogan launched a fake coup to justify consolidating more power to himself.
“I am not really worried about the extradition request,” Gulen said.
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