Turkey Wants U.S. To Extradite Exiled Cleric Blamed For Attempted Coup
DAVID GREENE, HOST:
The United States and Turkey are important NATO allies. But there have been tensions. And one reason is a Muslim cleric named Fethullah Gulen, who lives in Pennsylvania. Turkey's government blames him for directing the failed coup attempt in Turkey, and they want the U.S. to extradite him. We spoke with Mehdi Eker. He's a prominent member of the ruling party in Turkey and head of a delegation that came to the United States to push for extradition.
Does your government have specific evidence that Mr. Gulen was involved in this coup?
MEHDI EKER: Yes.
GREENE: What is that evidence?
EKER: Just one example, you know, the testimony of the Turkish army authorities saying that they have regular, you know, links, and that they are wiretapping, you know, listening on daily basis. There are so many evidences.
GREENE: There are people in the military, you're saying, who were involved in this coup who...
EKER: Yeah, directly involved.
GREENE: Directly involved, who have testified that they have links to Mr. Gulen. And they were using...
GREENE: ...His writings, his inspiration...
EKER: Yes. Yes...
GREENE: ...As part of the coup?
GREENE: Is it possible that he was not directly involved in planning this but that people inside Turkey were using him as an inspiration to plan their coup?
EKER: You know, David, I don't think so. As all of Turkish people know very well, that this is a messianic cult. This is not a kind of, you know, a movement or organization. This has nothing to do with being opponent of the existent government. They are just obeying him.
GREENE: You know, it - the U.S. government has watched as your government has rounded up and arrested many people who are considered followers of Gulen.
EKER: Not only followers, if they are connected and they are involved in any criminal activity.
GREENE: But can you guarantee that Mr. Gulen will receive a full, fair, legal trial if he is sent to Turkey?
EKER: Definitely. You know, we are a partner of the European Convention of Human Rights. And Turkey is a country of rule of law. I would think it's transparent.
GREENE: Could he be killed as punishment if he were convicted?
EKER: No, it is not option because (laughter) we do not have that penalty in our country, you know, unlike some states in United States.
GREENE: Where would he be held before the trial?
EKER: Well, according to Turkish Constitution and penal code of Turkey, he will be in, you know, a safe place for his life. That is as all, you know - this type of criminals.
GREENE: You're already calling him a criminal.
EKER: Well, it's suspected. You're saying - if he's, you know, judged - I mean, killing people is a criminal act, isn't it?
GREENE: If the United States does not extradite Gulen, could you recover from that and still have a good relationship?
EKER: People of Turkey will be disappointed.
GREENE: But would it damage the relationship badly?
EKER: I think in such cases, we need to make empathy. I personally never wish to, but just imagine that the United States was, you know, targeted. It's such a brutal attack. What would happen?
GREENE: You're saying that the United States should think about what Turkey has been through as they consider this?
EKER: Yes, the empathy, yeah.
GREENE: Mr. Eker, thank you for all of your time today. We really appreciate it.
EKER: Thank you very much.
GREENE: Mehdi Eker, he's a vice chairman of Turkey's ruling party. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.