Instead of extradition, US can deport Fethullah Gülen


U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry looked agitated when he appeared on CNN to talk about the failed coup in Turkey over the weekend. He said the United States government has not received an extradition request for Fethullah Gülen and it is improper to blame Americans for involvement in the coup. “We are not harboring anyone, show us the legal foundation that meets the standard of extradition in order for our courts to approve such a request.” he said.

No doubt, Turkey has to submit a detailed dossier about Pennsylvania-based leader of the Gülenist Terror Organization (FETÖ), retired imam Fethullah Gülen, who has had disciples within state institution since 1980s. Ankara and the people of Turkey believe that he is behind the attempted coup. They have a long list of reasons for that.

The people in Turkey are asking if the U.S. is an ally or a country that does not come to the help a NATO ally in its darkest hour.

Kerry said the U.S. requires evidence for extradition. Sure, the Turkish government will provide the necessary evidence. But he has actually another choice – he can deport Gülen.

United States Code Title 8, Chapter 12 lists the reasons and procedures to deport foreign nationals. The law makes clear that Gülen could be deported on security grounds. “An alien whose presence or activities in the United States the Secretary of State has reasonable ground to believe would have potentially serious adverse foreign policy consequences for the United States is deportable,” The code says. Gülen is an alien who has legal U.S. residency.

There is no doubt that Gülen has become a big headache for the U.S. government since it jeopardizes relations with a NATO ally. Turkey is also one of the pillars of the anti-DAESH coalition that the U.S. needs. Washington will face Turkish pressure every time an American official wants to ask a small favor from Ankara. The media and people in Turkey will not forget that the U.S. government is hiding behind the law and dragging its feet on this.

A lawyer I talked to last year told me that Kerry just simply needs to prepare a detailed letter on the risks that Gülen’s presence creates for U.S. foreign policy and send it to the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). Then the USCIS would prepare a detailed file about Gülen and pass it to an immigration judge along with Kerry’s letter. Depending on the judge’s decision, both parties could go for an appeal. The only problem in this process is that Gülen may have the right to choose which country he would be deported to.

If U.S. President Barack Obama’s administration decides to pursue this strategy, it would quickly end the crisis concerning Gülen. Otherwise an extradition process would be very costly since it would consume many news cycles and increase anti-Americanism in Turkey.

Media in the U.S. has the impression that only pro-Erdoğan voters and media were against the coup. The think tankers in Washington also believe the accusations against Gülen only stem from a certain part of the Turkish political spectrum. That is wrong. Mehmet Ali Çelebi, a former military officer in the Air Force who was purged by a Gülenist show trial known as Balyoz (Sledgehammer), asserts it is obvious that Gülenist officers were behind the coup. Semih Çetin, a secularist admiral who also lost his job due to Gülenist prosecution, agrees with him. Even the secularist and nationalist Sözcü daily, which is a bold and fierce critic of Erdoğan, has no doubt that Gülenists were behind the attempt.

Why? Because every faction in Turkish society has a history with Gülen, and every one of them suffered. This is why Kerry’s comments on Gülen, along with ignorant and arrogant analyses at Washington think tanks only succeed to make Turks mad. Nothing else.

Kerry can turn this tide by deporting Gülen. It could be a big favor that the people in Turkey would never forget. The U.S. could win its Turkish ally back completely.