‘Sending Gülen to Turkey will make a mockery of U.S. extradition system’ - journalist

If the U.S. President Donald Trump sends Islamist cleric Fethullah Gülen to Turkey in exchange for easing pressure on the Saudi government over the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, he will make a mockery of the U.S. extradition system, journalist Frida Ghitis said in NBC News.

NBC News reported on Thursday that the U.S. administration would ask Turkey to drop its pressure over Saudi Arabia and the kingdom’s de facto ruler Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, if the United States returns Gülen, who currently lives in self-imposed exile in the United States and blamed by Ankara for orchestrating a coup attempt in 2016.

Saudi authorities say Khashoggi, a critical journalist, was killed inside Saudi Arabia’s consulate in Istanbul last month as a result of a rouge operation. Turkish government finds Saudi Arabia’s explanation unsatisfactory and puts pressure on the kingdom to reveal the names who instructed the killing of the journalist. 

“U.S. authorities have already reviewed Turkey’s two-year-old extradition request and found it without merit. But Trump, in an effort to help Saudi Arabia diffuse the Khashoggi crisis, is weighing whether or not to both sacrifice a man and make a mockery of the extradition system,” Ghitis said. 

The U.S. extradition system is designed not only to prevent politicians from interfering with what should be law-enforcement issues, but also to protect individuals from foreign governments fabricating charges for political purposes, Ghitis said. 

On Thursday, U.S. State Department Spokeswoman Heather Nauert said there was no relation between Khashoggi and the Gülen extradition. “We have received multiple requests from Turkish gov’t ... related to Mr. Gülen. We continue to evaluate material Turkish gov’t presents ... this is fully handled by the Justice," she said.

According to Ghitis, Nauert’s denials are contradicted by her boss, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who said that he and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan talked about Gülen, when he visited Turkey after the Saudi journalist was assassinated. 

"Gulen’s life may seem small when compared to the issues at stake,” Gihitis said, adding that Gülen’s extradition would not only ease tensions between Saudi Arabia and Turkey, but would also help mending the ties between Turkey and United States, two NATO allies clashing repeatedly on Syria, the Kurds and other issues.

“But sacrificing Gulen to help the Saudis shake a murder rap would bring more harm than good to America. It would be a betrayal of America principles; it would injure the country’s rule of law — already embattled under Trump — and would further tarnish the U.S. standing on the global stage,” Ghitis said.