A joint statement, which has been issued by four parties in the Turkish parliament, has called on the United States to take the necessary steps to extradite a Muslim cleric, Fethullah Gulen, Turkish media reported on Friday.
The Turkish government blames Gulen and members of his movement of being terrorists who orchestrated the failed military coup attempt on July 15, 2016.
The leaders of Turkey’s ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP), its main ally the far-right Nationalist Movement Party (MHP), the main opposition secularist Republican People’s Party (CHP) and nationalist opposition Good Party (IYI) signed the statement that demands the return of Gulen.
Focusing on the negative impact that the preacher’s presence in the US has on Washington-Ankara relations, the statement underlined that Turkey cannot accept the lack of US action against Gulen and his followers.
“The lack of action against FETO [Ankara’s designation of the movement as a terrorist organization] and its leader by US officials is negatively affecting the US-Turkey relations. As four parties in Turkey’s Grand National Assembly, we are notifying [the US] of the widespread reactions this has provoked from Turkish society,” the statement read.
Once considered an ally of the AKP, Gulen has lived in self-exile in the US state of Pennsylvania since 1999.
A rift in their relations has become an open conflict after several AKP ministers were implicated in a corruption investigation in 2013. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, then prime minister, blamed the movement for staging a judicial coup against his government.
Erdogan’s AKP designated the faith-based movement a terrorist organization three years later and accused them of masterminding the July 2016 coup that the ruling party survived.
“The FETO leader, Gulen, continues to direct his terrorist organization from the United States, and continues to spread his twisted views using the same tactics as the Islamic State and al Qaeda,” the parties further argued in the statement.
On the other hand, the Turkish parliament’s second-largest opposition, the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), decided not to be a signatory to the four parties’ statement demanding Gulen’s extradition.
The announcement, issued by the group deputy chairpersons of HDP, Fatma Kurtulan, and Saruhan Oluc, referred to their five parliamentary research proposals into the Gulen movement in the Turkish parliament, which were rejected unanimously by the AKP-MHP bloc.
The pro-Kurdish HDP held forth in a written statement that while it is “indisputably right” that Gulen and his followers in the US should be returned to Turkey, a more consistent approach towards the issue required trying MPs who have links to Gulen’s faith-based movement.
“Reducing the issue to extradition demands is nothing but AKP-MHP alliance’s attempt at evading the responsibility of revealing the political section [of the Gulen group],” HDP underlined.
Another statement about the issue was released by lawyers of Fethullah Gulen, who reminded the preacher’s open call to the Turkish government to allow for an international commission to investigate the coup attempt, which has not been accepted by Ankara.
“If the commission finds one-tenth of the accusations against me to be justified, I am ready to return to Turkey and receive the harshest punishment,” Gulen told leading international news outlets in the aftermath of the attempted putsch.
“In a country where people are deprived of their most fundamental rights, where more than 500,000 people are declared terrorists and the judiciary is not independent or impartial, people should restore justice within that country first, instead of looking for it in the US,” the statement emphasized.
Repeating the demand that an international commission should investigate the failed coup, the lawyers also called on the Turkish government to take necessary steps to prevent further cases where people accused of being Gulen followers are reportedly abducted and tortured or sentenced to death in prisons.
Although Gulen and his followers strongly deny the allegations against them, Ankara detained or arrested nearly 80,000 people and prosecuted more than 511,000 due to alleged links to the movement over putsch charges.
As part of the decrees of the state-of-emergency that was declared soon after July 15 and lasted for two years, hundreds of thousands of people were dismissed from their public sector jobs as part of a wide-spread purge targeting real and alleged members of Gulen group.
Since the coup attempt, the Turkish government and the United States have faced a succession of serious disputes due to the countries’ diverging foreign policies that hold them apart.