The US State Department Thursday denied that the White House has asked several federal agencies to find legal means to extradite the leader of Gulenist Terror Group (FETO) to Turkey as a way to ease Ankara’s pressure on Saudi Arabia over the killing of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi, Daily Sabah reports.
The denial came few hours after US media, NBC, citing two US officials and two sources reported that the White House instructed the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), the Department of Justice and the Department of Homeland Security to work out ways to hand Turkish cleric Fethullah Gülen to Turkey.
Fethullah Gülen is settled in self-imposed exile in the USA. He is wanted by Turkey for allegedly masterminding the July 2016 coup against the Ankara regime.
Turkey has sought Gulen’s extradition after it provided Washington hundreds of folds allegedly containing evidence about the cleric’s connection with the botched coup.
Gulen has rejected the accusations.
Reports have emerged that US President Donald Trump is seeking to expel Gulen in a move to placate Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan who has been piling pressure on Saudi Arabia over Khashoggi’s death. Turkish authorities believe the killing was ordered from the Saudi top leadership establishment, with fingers pointing at Crown Prince Mohamed bin Salman (MbS); a close ally of the Trump administration.
Erdogan has maintained that Turkey has damning evidence that will expose the highest level of the Saudi government after it released several evidence including photos of members of a hit squad dispatched from Riyadh to Istanbul where the journalist, a prominent critic of MbS, was killed on October 2, in the Saudi consulate in the Turkish city.
Possibilities of Gulen’s extradition and relocation in South Africa were reportedly discussed between Turkey and the US but the plans were quickly scrapped, CNBC reports.
Ankara has however denied it established a link between Gulen’s extradition and Khashoggi’s killing and blamed the US for politicizing Turkey’s request for the exiled cleric’s handover.
“Turkey’s pending request for Fetullah Gülen’s extradition from the United States and the investigation into Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi’s murder are two separate issues. They are not connected in any way, shape or form,” Daily Sabah quoted a Turkish official as saying.
“At no point did Turkey offer to hold back on the Khashoggi investigation in return for Fetullah Gülen’s extradition,” the official said, adding: “We have no intention to intervene in the Khashoggi investigation in return for any political or legal favor.”