President Donald Trump’s pick for ambassador to the EU has yet to take office, but he has already jumped out ahead of the Trump administration by calling for the U.S. government to extradite exiled Muslim cleric Fethullah Gulen back to Turkey, where he has been accused of masterminding July’s failed coup attempt.
Theodore Roosevelt Malloch, a U.K.-based professor and strategic consultant, weighed in on Turkey’s extradition request for Gulen during an interview with NTV, a Turkish news outlet.
“It does seem remarkable to me that as the result of the coup attempt…that the United States would not, in due process and with judicial review in a fair hearing, make an extradition of Fethullah Gulen back to Turkey so that he can be held in a trial setting,” Malloch said.
“That seems to me something that this administration should take very seriously. I think that was dismissed in the Obama period.”
Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Turkey’s president, has obsessively sought Gulen’s extradition from the U.S. since 2013, when his supporters were implicated in a corruption scandal that he believes was set off by Gulen. Erdogan increased that pressure after the failed July 15 coup attempt, which he also blames on Gulen, who is in his late 70s and lives in a compound in the Pocono mountains.
Malloch, a vocal critic of the EU and globalism, asserted in his interview that there is ample evidence showing that Gulen was behind the coup plot.
While the Turkish government has also made that claim, evidence showing that Gulen was directly involved in the failed putsch has not yet been made public. Turkish government officials have provided evidence to the Justice Department, which is handling the extradition request in coordination with the State Department.
Erdogan, who was once allied with Gulen, has personally asked Presidents Obama and Trump to extradite the cleric, who has been in the U.S. since 1999.
As Malloch noted in his interview, Gulen’s extradition has diplomatic implications for the U.S.-Turkey relationship. He pointed out that Turkey is a NATO ally, a fact which the Islamic nation has used as leverage in its pressure campaign to gain Gulen’s extradition.
“Turkey is an important strategic relationship for the United States,” said Malloch.
While the Justice and State Departments say that they are reviewing evidence in the case, there has been little movement on the issue on the U.S. side.
But Malloch says that Turkey should reiterate its request for Gulen to the Trump administration.
“These processes do take some time, but I think they can be expedited now that we have a Trump presidency,” he said, adding that the extradition request is something that Turkey “needs to make forcefully again.”
While Malloch would likely have little direct say in whether Gulen is extradited, his remarks will be well received by the Turkish government. They also lay down a marker which could force the Trump administration to weigh in more directly on the extradition question.
Erdogan and the Turkish government have expressed optimism in the past that the Trump administration will be amenable to the extradition request. The Erdogan regime was pleased with Trump’s comments in July supporting Erdogan’s response to the coup attempt. The Turkish government also saw an ally in Michael Flynn, the former lieutenant general who served as Trump’s national security advisor for 24 days before being forced to resign this month.
Flynn issued a strong call for Gulen’s extradition in a Nov. 8 op-ed in which he referred to Gulen as a “shady Islamic mullah.”
As TheDC found, Flynn failed to disclose in that op-ed that his consulting firm had recently been hired as a lobbyist for a company that was owned by a Turkish businessman with close ties to the Turkish government. (RELATED: Trump Adviser Is Lobbying For Company With Ties To Turkish Government)
In his article, Flynn also referred to connections between top U.S.-based Gulenists and Bill and Hillary Clinton.
Malloch made similar references in his interview.
“This organization was accused of being linked to the Clinton Foundation,” Malloch said of the Gulen organization.
Malloch’s remark is a direct reference to reporting from The Daily Caller showing that supporters of Gulen living in the U.S. donated heavily to the Clinton Foundation and Hillary Clinton’s political campaigns.
One of the supporters gave $500,000 to the Clinton Foundation. Another Gulenist was in frequent direct contact with Huma Abedin, one of Clinton’s top aides, when the pair were at the State Department. (RELATED: New Ties Emerge Between Clinton And Mysterious Islamic Cleric)
According to one expert on Turkey and the Middle East, Malloch’s remarks are a diplomatic failure.
Michael Rubin, a former Pentagon official and resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, says that Malloch’s comments “raise issues” about his judgement.
“The accusations against Gulen seem based more on vendetta than evidence,” Rubin told TheDC.
He said that one problem with simply extraditing Gulen is that doing so “would throw under the bus the tens of thousands of people” who have been arrested as part of Erdogan’s crackdown of suspected Gulenists.
Hundreds of Turkish journalists and thousands of citizens have been arrested on accusations that they support Gulen, who is considered a terrorist in Turkey. One such detainee is Andrew Brunson, an American pastor who has been in a Turkish prison for four months on bogus charges that he is a Gulen-linked terrorist. (RELATED: Congress Demands Release Of American Pastor Held In Turkey On Bogus Terror Charges)
“It would retroactively justify Erdogan’s purge,” Rubin says of an extradition.
“Being an ambassador is more than just telling a toad that he’s handsome; it is about defending U.S. interests. On this, Malloch failed his first test,” says Rubin.