Gülen extradition critical to U.S.-Turkey ties – columnist

The United States should extradite Islamist preacher Fethullah Gülen for trial in Turkey if it wants to see a marked improvement in bilateral ties, said Melih Altınok, a columnist for the Turkish pro-government Daily Sabah newspaper.

U.S. President Donald Trump should not damage the mutual interests of two allies “for a raving cult leader” who is responsible for orchestrating a failed military coup in July 2016, Altınok said in a regular editorial on Thursday.

“Mr. President, there is no other appropriate time as today to take such a step – extraditing this most wanted criminal Gülen and his followers!” Altınok said.

Relations between the United States and Turkey have taken a plunge this year after Turkey refused to release several Americans from custody including pastor Andrew Brunson, who were charged with terrorism offences including support for Gülen’s group. Ties were also damaged by a Turkish invasion of northern Syria to battle Kurdish militants allied with the United States in the battle against Islamic State (ISIS).

Altınok said Gülen and his secretive group were engaged in lobbying and buying media outlets to enhance their campaign against Turkey’s government. Some news reports in U.S. media are also funded by the organisation, he said.

“However, U.S. President Donald Trump is an extraordinary and realistic man. Hence, it wouldn't be suitable for such a professional president to be influenced by the manipulations of Gülen's men as some other politicians are,” Altınok said.

There is no better time than today to extradite Gülen, an act that would further the positive momentum in relations enhanced by Turkey’s release of Brunson last month, he said.