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Monday, March 27, 2023

Send evidence, not allegations on cleric Gulen, John Kerry tells Turkey

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Secretary of State John Kerry is calling on Turkey to provide hard evidence that a US-based cleric was behind a foiled coup attempt last weekend if it wants him extradited.

Mr Kerry said that he made clear in several phone calls with Turkey’s foreign minister in recent days that mere allegations of wrongdoing against Fethullah Gulen would not meet US extradition requirements.

“With respect to Mr Gulen, we have consistently said to our friends in Turkey and allies in Turkey that we need evidence,” Mr Kerry told reporters at the State Department.

“We have a very strict set of requirements that have to be met for an extradition to take place.”

Turkey submitted a dossier of documents about Mr Gulen, who lives in exile in Pennsylvania, to the Justice Department on Tuesday.

Mr Kerry said he had not yet seen the documents and other US officials have not yet said whether they constitute a formal extradition request.

However, Mr Kerry said he had told Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavosoglu in several phone calls: “Please don’t send us allegations, send us evidence. We need to have evidence which we can then make a judgment about.”

Separately, Defence Secretary Ash Carter said his counterpart, Defence Minister Fikri Isik, assured him in a phone call on Tuesday that the coup and its aftermath would not affect Turkey’s support for the fight against the Islamic State group.

In the days since the coup failed, Turkey has intensified a sweeping crackdown on the media, the military, the courts and the education system following an attempted coup, targeting tens of thousands of teachers and other state employees believed to have links with Gulen for dismissal.

The purge has raised concerns about basic freedoms and the effectiveness of key institutions.

Mr Kerry said the US was watching those developments with caution but reiterated Washington’s support for the elected government.

“We support the democratic government, we support the duly elected officials,” he said.

“We condemn this coup and we are clear about our desire to see democracy sustained and flourish in Turkey. We want to make certain that as the response to the coup is implemented that it fully respects the democracy that we are supporting.”

On a related matter, Mr Carter said military operations at the air base in Incirlik, Turkey, should be back to normal shortly. And Mr Kerry said Turkish officials have told the US ambassador to Turkey that power to Incirlik would be restored in the next two days.

Turkish authorities have alleged that planes involved in the coup attempt were refuelled by Turkish planes housed at the base.

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