U.S. official declines comment on Gülen after report he may be extradited

A U.S. Department of State spokesperson declined to comment on the status of exiled Turkish cleric Fethullah Gülen amid speculation that the White House may seek his extradition to Turkey.

Turkey has made many requests on Gülen and the matter is in the hands of the Department of Justice, a State Department spokesperson said, according to Voice of America.

Turkey blames Gülen, who resides in a Pennsylvania mansion, for orchestrating a failed military coup in July 2016. His clandestine group has millions of followers in Turkey and abroad, running schools and non-government organisations in the United States and many other countries. Tens of thousands of suspected members were detained following the coup attempt including bureaucrats, teachers and journalists.

U.S. President Donald Trump’s administration is looking for ways to send Gülen to Turkey in exchange for Ankara easing pressure on the Saudi government, members of which it has implicated in the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi in Istanbul in October, NBC News reported on Thursday.

The effort includes directives to the Justice Department and Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) that officials reopen Turkey's case for Gülen’s extradition, as well as a request to the Homeland Security Department for information about his legal status, NBC quoted two senior officials and two other people briefed on the matter as saying.

Gülen’s continuing residence in the United States has soured relations between Washington and Ankara, adding to tensions on several fronts including U.S. support for Kurdish militants in Syria and a U.S. Treasury investigation of Turkey’s state-run Halkbank for allegedly breaking sanctions on Iran.