Trump administration considers extraditing Erdogan foe living in the US to Turkey

The Trump administration is seriously considering extraditing US resident and Turkish cleric Fethullah Gulen to Turkey in order to placate President Recep Erdogan over the murder of Saudi Arabian journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

Erdogan has used Gulen and his movement as a scapegoat, blaming him for planning last year's coup against his government and using that as an excuse to arrest tens of thousands of Gulen's supporters and close thousands of businesses - including many media outlets that were hostile to his regime.

Once an Erdogan ally, Gulen had a falling out with the dictator. There have been some questions raised about the movement he leads, which purports to be "a transnational Islamic social movement that professes advocation of universal access to educationcivil society, and peace, inspired by the religious teachings" of Gulen. The movement runs several hundred schools around the world, including some in the US.

But many observers doubt whether Gulen was behind the coup against Erdogan, which was a comedy of errors to begin with. It was actually planned and carried out by small faction in the military that disliked Erdogan's Islamist policies. But Erdogan has used the Gulen movement as a foil to justify massive repression of dissent.

Gulen has been in the US since 1999.


Trump administration officials last month asked federal law enforcement agencies to examine legal ways of removing exiled Turkish cleric Fethullah Gulen in an attempt to persuade Erdogan to ease pressure on the Saudi government, the four sources said.

The effort includes directives to the Justice Department and FBI that officials reopen Turkey's case for his extradition, as well as a request to the Homeland Security Department for information about his legal status, the four people said.

They said the White House specifically wanted details about Gulen's residency status in the U.S. Gulen has a Green Card, according to two people familiar with the matter. He has been living in Pennsylvania since the late 1990s.

Career officials at the agencies pushed back on the White House requests, the U.S. officials and people briefed on the requests said.

"At first there were eye rolls, but once they realized it was a serious request, the career guys were furious," said a senior U.S. official involved in the process.

A spokesperson for the National Security Council initially declined to comment on this story but after it published, said in a statement: "The NSC has not been involved in nor aware of any discussions relating the extradition of Fethullah Gulen to the death of Jamal Khashoggi."

Erdogan has been asking for Gulen's return from the US since the coup ended. There is zero evidence that he had anything to do with the short lived uprising. But Erdogan wants his show trial, as well as revenge against his former friend. Will the US violate its own principles and turn the cleric over to the tender mercies of the Turkish president?

It would be a travesty if we did. Gulen may be a wanted man in Turkey but he has committed no crime in the US. Besides, there's no guarantee Erdogan would ease up on the Saudis if the US handed Gulen over to Turkish authorities. 

In 1979, the Shah of Iran came to the US for cancer treatment. Iranian terrorists stormed our embassy and kidnapped our diplomats. They demanded we return the Shah for certain execution. To his credit, Carter resisted the calls to give the terrorists what they wanted. The US is supposed to be a safe haven and contemplating the return of Gulen would make a mockery of that notion.

Saudi Arabia has created its own mess and must extricate themselves without any help from the US. Violating our principles to bail out the Saudis from their own diplomatic mess with Turkey shouldn't even be on the table.