U.S. would consider extradition request for exiled cleric living in Pa., State Dpt. says

In this Sept. 24

In this Sept. 24

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry says the United States would entertain an extradition request for exiled cleric Fethullah Gulen, whom Turkey’s president blames for a failed coup. But Kerry adds Turkey’s government would have to present evidence of Gulen’s wrongdoing that withstands scrutiny.

While visiting Luxembourg, Kerry says Turkey hasn’t made a request to send the Pennsylvania-based Gulen home. But he says he anticipates questions about Gulen, who has condemned the coup.

A lawyer for the Turkish government, Robert Amsterdam, said that “there are indications of direct involvement” in the coup attempt by Fethullah Gulen, a Muslim cleric who is living in exile in Pennsylvania. He said he and his firm “have attempted repeatedly to warn the U.S. government of the threat posed” by Gulen and his movement.

According to Turkish intelligence sources, he said, “there are signs that Gulen is working closely with certain members of military leadership against the elected civilian government.”

The president of a group that promotes Gulen’s ideas, the New York-based Alliance for Shared Values, denied the charges. Y. Alp Aslandogan told The Associated Press “we categorically deny such accusations and find them to be highly irresponsible.”

In a statement Friday, the Alliance for Shared Values said: “For more than 40 years, Fethullah Gulen and Hizmet participants have advocated for, and demonstrated their commitment to, peace and democracy. We have consistently denounced military interventions in domestic politics. These are core values of Hizmet participants. We condemn any military intervention in domestic politics of Turkey. Events on the ground are moving quickly and it would be irresponsible for us to speculate on them. We remain concerned about the safety and security of Turkish citizens and those in Turkey right now. Comments by pro-Erdogan circles about the movement are highly irresponsible.”

Kerry says on Saturday the U.S. opposed any attempt to overthrow a democratically elected leader. He says change must come through a constitutional process.

The U.S. has shown little inclination to send Gulen back to Turkey. The Justice Department has declined to comment on Gulen’s case. In an interview with the AP early this year, Aslandogan, of the Alliance for Shared Values, said: “(Gulen) said that the United States has a long tradition of democracy and rule of law. … They will see that these are politically oriented charges, and they will not allow Erdogan to spread his ambition into the United States.”

Kerry also says U.S. military cooperation with its NATO ally has been unaffected by the turmoil.

Turkey plays a key role in U.S.-led efforts against the Islamic State group in Syria and Iraq.

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