By Dildar Baykan
WASHINGTON (AA) – Even four years after the 2016 defeated coup in Turkey, the US has yet to respond to Turkey’s request for the extradition of Fetullah Gulen – head of the Fetullah Terrorist Organization (FETO), the group behind the coup – and senior members of FETO.
As Turkey will mark the fourth anniversary of the July 15, 2016 coup bid on Wednesday, the US government dragging its feet on the extradition remains a significant issue between the two countries.
- 1st step for extradition taken just after coup bid
On July 19, 2016 – just four days after the coup bid – Turkey’s Justice Ministry sent US four separate files on Gulen, initiating the official extradition process.
On Aug. 7, 2016, the US Justice Department proposed that Turkey send a delegation to the US or a US delegation would visit Turkey.
Turkey accepted the offer of a US delegation and for a Turkish delegation to later have talks in the US.
- 1st talks with US delegation
Three Justice Department representatives and one from the State Department held talks with Justice Ministry officials on Aug. 22-23, 2016.
Turkish officials shared details about the extradition file and the evidence, as well as the evidence that the coup attempt was organized at Gulen’s orders.
In September, the ministry forwarded the first request for temporary arrest of the ringleader Gulen.
- Talks in Washington
On Oct. 27, 2016, then-Justice Minister Bekir Bozdag along with a delegation visited his US counterpart, Attorney General Loretta Lynch, in Washington.
During the talks, Bozdag reiterated Turkey’s request for Gulen to be arrested and extradited.
In February 2017, when new Attorney General Jeff Sessions took office under President Donald Trump, Bozdag sent a letter and on March 22 had a phone conversation reiterating Turkey's request for Gulen's extradition.
That May 8, Bozdag also told Sessions about new evidence that the defeated coup was organized on Gulen’s orders.
- Trump, Erdogan discuss FETO at White House
That May 15-17, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan met with US President Donald Trump and discussed Turkey’s request for Gulen’s extradition.
That Nov. 3, 2017 the number of evidence files rose to seven with the latest request for Gulen’s extradition from the US. The files included the attempted assassination of Erdogan the night of the defeated putsch.
On Nov. 7, 2017, Justice Minister Abdulhamit Gul and Sessions discussed Gulen’s extradition on the phone.
A US delegation that came to Turkey on July 13, 2018 held talks at the Foreign Ministry including the extradition issue.
- Talks with US delegation
The number of inter-delegation talks between the two countries climbed to six with talks held by a US delegation, including FBI officials, in Turkey’s capital Ankara on Jan. 3-4, 2019.
On March 1, 2019, Justice Minister Abdullah Gul sent a congratulatory letter to new Attorney General Bill Barr and reiterated Turkey’s request for the extradition of Gulen as well as FETO members.
Gul’s last visit to Washington was on June 11, 2019.
“We talked about the FETO extradition process in general, which is highly important for Turkey,” Gul told Anadolu Agency afterwards.
“We shared the evidence and documents that revealed FETO’s direct ties to the coup attempt of July 15. We conveyed these new and important pieces of evidence directly to the attorney general.”
The Justice Ministry also requested the extradition of senior FETO members including members of appointed and consultative committees, so-called “mullahs,” national and local “imams,” and members of the board of trustees.
- US inaction
Despite Turkey’s attempts, neither President Barack Obama nor his successor Donald Trump has taken serious steps to extradite the ringleader or members of the FETO terrorist group.
Even though the Turkish government said it was a coup attempt on the night of July 15, the US only announced its support for Turkey’s elected government three hours later.
The first statement Ankara expected from Washington came only after it was clear that Erdogan was alive and that the putschists had been defeated.
Then-US Vice President Joe Biden – now the Democrats’ nominee for president – came to Turkey about 45 days after the defeated coup.
Biden was received by Erdogan and also met with then-Prime Minister Binali Yildirim. During the talks, the extradition process of ringleader Fetullah Gulen was the top priority.
In a joint press conference, Biden apologized for not coming to Turkey right after the attempted coup, saying: "I wish I could have come here before."
In September 2016, Obama met Erdogan at a G20 summit in China. Speaking with Erdogan, Obama said that he had clearly condemned the coup attempt at the time, also reiterating the US' "commitment to investigating and bringing the perpetrators of these illegal acts to trial."
But in the final months of the Obama administration, it took no serious steps on the issue.
The Trump administration, which came to power in January 2017, was expected to address the issue, but also failed to do so, at least partially due to domestic politics.
The US Justice Department and State Department say the files and evidence on FETO’s responsibility for the defeated coup are still “under review.” Turkey’s requests for the extradition of FETO members have barely moved at all.