Justice minister says US can hand over alleged coup leader under 1979 extradition agreement.
The U.S. is obliged to extradite the leader of the Fetullah Terrorist Organization (FETO) under a 1979 agreement with Turkey, Justice Minister Abdulhamit Gul said Thursday.
Speaking at the Anadolu Agency's Editors’ Desk, Gul said the treaty made probable cause a sufficient reason to extradite a suspect.
Ankara has been seeking the extradition of FETO leader Fetullah Gulen from the U.S. since last year’s attempted coup. The former preacher has been indicted in several cases relating to the coup bid, which left 250 people dead.
The U.S. has declined to hand over Gulen, who has lived in Pennsylvania since 1999, and has said Turkey has not provided sufficient evidence. Gulen has been charged in several cases relating to the July 15 failed coup.
“There have been five separate requisitions from the court but we have almost 100 folders, files, testimonies, confessions and evidence sent to the U.S.,” Gul said.
The extradition treaty, which was signed in 1979 and came into force two years later, covers offenses in both countries that are punishable by more than a year in prison.
This includes “any offense committed or attempted against a head of state or a head of government”.
The treaty adds that the countries “undertake to surrender to each other… all persons who are found within the territory of the requested party and who are being prosecuted for or have been charged with an offense”.
Discussing another dispute between Ankara and Washington, Gul said Turkish officials had met a high-level U.S. diplomatic team to resolve the visa row.
Earlier this month, both countries suspended some visa services following the arrest of Turkish staff at U.S. diplomatic missions.
Gul said a Wednesday meeting had been highly productive. “I think the next phases will result in more positive [outcomes],” he added.
Suspect met lawyers
However, he said that it was not possible to give an exact date for any resolution. “When they [the U.S.] take a decision on the visa dispute, we will reciprocate the decision,” the minister said.
Gul denied U.S. claims that Metin Topuz, a consulate employee who was arrested on Oct. 6, had not had sufficient contact with his lawyer.
“They said he was not allowed to meet his family and lawyers but this is not true,” Gul said. “He met his lawyers during both the investigation process and before the court.”
Topuz was also allowed to meet his family, the minister said.
Discussions with the U.S. diplomatic team, which is led by Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Jonathan Cohen, also focused on the indictments against members of the Turkish presidential security detail.
Gul said that some of the 15 guards named in the indictment “were not even in the U.S. during our president’s visit.”
During President Recep Tayyip Edorgan’s May visit to Washington, a group of his bodyguards confronted protesters outside the Turkish ambassador’s residence.
Gul also commented on the jailing of 42 soldiers for trying to assassinate Erdogan on the night of the defeated coup attempt. Most were sentenced to aggravated life sentences, meaning they will be held under strict conditions with little chance of parole.
He said the convicts, who attacked the hotel where Erdogan had been holidaying in Marmaris, had been distributed throughout the prison system to prevent them having contact with one another.
“We know what they are doing in jails,” he said. “We are following who supports them from the outside. Our government is keeping an eye on them.”
Referring to other cases against alleged coup-plotters, he added: “The trials are proceeding under great sacrifice in the name of our nation… These criminals will be punished at the scales of justice. Aggravated sentences are on their way.”
“There have been recent media claims saying that Adil Oksuz owns a house in Germany and that he is living there now,” Gul said, referring to a fugitive alleged coup-plotter who Ankara says was called by the U.S. Consulate the night of the defeated coup attempt.
Gul said Turkey will once again ask German authorities to arrest Adil Oksuz, one of the top suspects in the coup bid, and send him back to Turkey.
Gul added that a new document with “more tangible evidence” would be submitted.
Turkey issued a diplomatic note to the German government on Aug. 16 over media reports claiming Oksuz had applied for asylum in Germany.
Evidence of Oksuz’s links to FETO include him and Kemal Batmaz, another key accused coup-plotter, being reportedly caught on camera returning to Istanbul from the U.S. on July 13, 2016, just two days before the attempted takeover.