A lawyer for U.S.-based preacher Fethullah Gulen said on Friday that Turkey had no proof he was involved in last month’s failed coup attempt and would not succeed in its bid for his extradition.
“We haven’t seen any evidence, direct or indirect… a scintilla of evidence, electronic or otherwise, implicating Mr. Gulen,” attorney Reid Weingarten told reporters in Washington.
Turkey has accused Gulen of masterminding the thwarted July 15 military coup to overthrow President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, and has asked the United States to extradite him. The Muslim cleric, 75, has lived in self-imposed exile since 1999 in the U.S. state of Pennsylvania.
Gulen late on Thursday condemned Turkey’s judicial system after a court issued an arrest warrant that accuses him of ordering the putsch. “It is well documented that the Turkish court system is without judicial independence, so this warrant is yet another example of President Erdogan’s drive for authoritarianism and away from democracy,” Gulen said in a statement. “I have repeatedly condemned the coup attempt in Turkey and denied any knowledge or involvement,” he said.
Weingarten noted on Friday that extradition was a legal process in the United States and subject to a treaty with Turkey. “In extradition proceedings, evidence matters and due process matters,” he said.
The lawyer directly addressed the tensions between Washington and Ankara over his client. “The bottom line is that the conspiracy theories and the threats of Mr. Erdogan are not strong enough to overwhelm the American legal system. And for these reasons, we believe that Mr. Gulen should not and will not be extradited,” Weingarten said.
He accused Erdogan of betting on “power and politics” to make Washington grant the extradition, but emphasized that the U.S. makes decisions based on the rule of law. “There is a collision of cultures here. I think Mr. Erdogan believes that he snaps his fingers, people jump,” he said.
Unofficially, the Obama administration’s position on the extradition request for Gulen does not seem too far off that of his lawyers. The U.S. Justice Department is still reviewing the documents that Ankara submitted to see if they meet the criteria for a formal extradition request, the State Department said late Thursday.
Secretary of State John Kerry, who could visit Turkey in late August, according to Ankara, said just days after the coup attempt that Turkey must present “genuine evidence” and “not allegations” against the Muslim cleric for his extradition.