US must arrest Gülen before he flees to Canada

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The media is deeply confused about Turkey’s extradition request for Fethullah Gülen, the alleged mastermind of Turkey’s failed coup, who has lived in Pennsylvania for more than a decade now. To comply with Turkey’s request, U.S. President Barack Obama’s administration is demanding evidence that proves Gülen’s guilt in the coup. However, framing the issue this way is disconnected from reality.

To be clear, there are now two ongoing legal processes with regards to Gülen: His provisional arrest and extradition. Neither is about Gülen’s complicity in the coup.

First, last Tuesday Ankara electronically applied for the provisional arrest or detention of Gülen for up to 60 days. Article 10 of the extradition treaty signed by Turkey and the U.S. specifically says that in cases of urgency, each country may apply for provisional arrest or detention before the request for extradition is submitted by the requesting party through diplomatic channels or justice ministries. Turkey’s initial documents include multiple warrants for arrest, clearly stating that Turkey intends to ask for extradition, as the treaty requires.

As far as I understand, American officials have demanded that Turkey justify its “urgency” in its request for provisional detention. Although, there is no specific condition for Turkey to present more reasoning for its demand, Turkish officials complied by submitting more documents on Tuesday.

Second, Turkish officials delivered a formal extradition request for Gülen last Saturday, which details in length the formal charges against Gülen.

The files include two arrest warrants issued by the 14th Heavy Penal Court in Istanbul, another from the Bursa 2nd Heavy Penal Court and one from a magistrate judge on the request of Ankara’s chief prosecutor. Embezzlement, aggravated fraud, the forging of official documents and violations of the right to privacy are among the charges.

The government did not submit any evidence in connection to the coup because it has been almost a year since Ankara began preparing an extradition request. Turkish media reported just before the coup that the Justice Ministry had finalized four cases against Gülen that were about to be delivered to their American counterparts. The coup only accelerated this process.

The U.S. should meet its obligations regarding the provisional detention request and take Gülen into custody. There is a high possibility that Gülen might flee the country. He told a group of journalists last week that he could leave the country if he caused a bilateral crisis between Turkey and the U.S. Turkish officials believe Canada is a reliable haven for Gülen and his disciples because Canada and Turkey have no extradition treaty. Gülen’s followers have been emigrating to Canada since the early 2000s. There are a number of non-governmental organizations and schools, such as the Nilce Academy, that belong to the group in that country.

In a related note, security forces arrested Davut Hancı, the so-called right hand of Gülen, in Trabzon, over the weekend. He has been pictured with Gülen on many occasions in recent years and arrived in Turkey just a couple of days before the coup. Police discovered that he was also a Canadian citizen. Unconfirmed reports also suggest that Gülen’s followers in the U.S. are already considering moving to Canada since Gülen’s status is in jeopardy in Pennsylvania.

The experts and the U.S. media constantly complain about the recent surge of anti-Americanism in Turkey. Instead of dismissing every report in the Turkish media as a crazy conspiracy theory, American officials should immediately detain Gülen as the bilateral extradition treaty requires.

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