Is Ankara using the Khashoggi case for the U.S. to extradite Gülen? - analysis

Reports that the United States is considering the extradition of Turkish cleric Fethullah Gülen, who Ankara accuses of masterminding the July 2016 coup attempt, may point to possible deal where Washington is looking to persuade Turkey "to ease pressure on the Saudi government," over the murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi, the Arab Weekly wrote.

The administration of Donald Trump has asked law enforcement agencies about "legal ways of removing" 77-year-old Gülen from the United States amid an ongoing investigation into Saudi dissident journalist Khashoggi, who was last seen entering Saudi’s Consulate building in İstanbul on Oct. 2. Turkish officials say the 59-year-old was killed by an execution team from Saudi Arabia, which Riyadh denies.

His movement considered a terrorist group, Gülen’s followers and supporters have been jailed in Turkey and been pursued abroad by Turkish intelligence operations. Ankara has repeatedly called for the extradition of Gülen from the United States.

U.S. State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert has rejected the allegation that there is a link between the Gülen extradition issue and Turkish pressure on Saudi Arabia over Khashoggi’s murder, the Arab Weekly said.

The White House "has not been involved in any discussions related to the extradition of Fethullah Gülen," it quoted Nauert as saying.

U.S. officials state they need sufficient evidence to extradite Gülen,who has been living in self-imposed exile in the United States since 1999,

A senior Turkish official, the publication said, stated the issues of Gulen's extradition and the investigation into Khashoggi's killing were separate issues.

"We have no intention to intervene in the Khashoggi investigation in return for any political or legal favour," the official said.

Last week Washington announced it was imposing sanctions on 17 Saudi officials implicated in the Khashoggi case.

Meanwhile,  there are talks of Ankara's possible motive for pursuing orchestrated leaks about the Khashoggi case via pro-government newspapers.

"I never had any doubt that Turkey was trading with the blood of Jamal Khashoggi," a prominent Saudi columnist Abdulrahman al-Rashed wrote on Twitter.