Nov 16 2018

U.S. decision on Gülen is a litmus test - US court reporter

There is little chance for the extradition of U.S. based Turkish cleric Fethullah Gülen despite news reports suggesting otherwise, said journalist Adam Klasfeld in Courthousenews website on Friday, citing the opinions of various experts.

The NBC reported on Thursday that the Trump administration was putting pressure on the Department of Justice to Gülen who Turkey blames for masterminding a failed coup attempt in 2016.

The extradition of Gülen is one of the main issues that stands in the way of two Nato allies that have been trying to mend their relations in the last couple of weeks. 

The evidence that Turkey presented to the United States for the extradition case has been found insufficient, Klasfeld quoted Johns Hopkins University professor Lisel Hintz as saying.

Turkey's allegations linking Gülen to the failed coup attempt in 2016 amounted to testimonies of two secret witnesses.

"The Turkish government also deployed secret witnesses against U.S. pastor Andrew Brunson, who spent roughly two years inside an Istanbul prison before the anonymous accusers mysteriously recanted prior to a rapprochement between Trump and Erdogan’s governments," Klasfeld said, recalling the secret witnesses in pastor the case of Andrew Brunson, who was released on Oct 12.

“Turkey has been engaged in hostage diplomacy with a number of countries, not just the U.S., for a while,” Klasfeld quoted Hintz as saying.  

“We know this is the case with Germany, with the Netherlands, possibly with Greece.”

The cases of a German-Turkish journalist Deniz Yücel, two Greek soldiers and up to 100 Dutch citizens being blocked to leave Turkey are prominent examples of Turkey's recent diplomatic power play. 

Erdoğan has gained leverage with the murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi in Saudi consulate in Istanbul, Klasfeld said. 

According to the NBC report, the Trump administration hopes turning Gülen over would satisfy Turkey so it wouldn’t link Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman to Khashoggi’s killing. 

“For the United States. to use him (Gulen) as a bargaining chip would be to play the game by Turkey’s rules – that is, engage in hostage diplomacy,” Hintz said.

“So, it may indeed be that there are discussions and attempted pressure from the White House to whoever it is that would be in charge,” Klasfeld quoted Bessma Momani, an analyst at the Washington-based Stinson Center and a professor at Canada’s University of Waterloo.

“I just don’t see a convincing argument for why this is in the American interest to absorb the potential fallout that you’re going to get from the legal community,” she said.