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Washington should comply with the Gülen extradition request without delay

Article by Feroz Osman

When the USA demanded that the then ruling Taliban in Afghanistan should extradite Osama Bin Laden for the 9/11 attacks on America without providing any evidence of his guilt, Afghan officials were threatened with accepting America's offer "of a carpet of gold", or being "buried under a carpet of bombs". In a remarkable twist, 15 years down the line officials in Washington are demanding evidence from Turkey for the extradition request in the name of the "terrorist" Fethullah Gülen, who lives in Pennsylvania, for the failed but nevertheless deadly coup attempt against President Recep Tayyip Erdogan last month.

Erdogan has faced severe criticism from Western nations and media for the post-coup arrest of thousands of suspected coup-conspirators in Turkey's military, media, judiciary and educational institutions. The foremost of those accused is Gülen and his Hizmet Movement; there is also a veiled accusation of US complicity, given that America controls the Incirlik airbase from which jets bombed parliament, tanks crushed civilians and soldiers were dispatched to assassinate the Turkish leader.

The now-ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Party) and Hizmet entered into an informal coalition in 2002 to counter the secular establishment put in place in Turkey by Kemal Ataturk. The military failed to stem the resurgence of the two Islamic movements following the 1997 coup; one is regarded by the West as authoritarian — the AKP — while the Gülenists represent, in Western eyes, "moderate Islam".

It was under the AK Party's rule that the ostensibly apolitical Gülenists have been able to infiltrate Turkey's military, judiciary, media, academic, intelligence and commercial sectors, controlling the levers of power in state and civil society. This is the "parallel state" that Erdogan refers to.

The Gülenists have been amenable to EU-US-NATO-Israeli machinations in the Middle East and Iran. They also favour pro-Western free market policies and reject any accommodation with Russia or the Kurds. The unravelling of their alliance with the AK Party was mainly over power and policy.

Furthermore, it was the Gülenists who orchestrated the arrest of the Turkish intelligence chief Hakan Fidan, a close confidante of Erdogan, for leading secret peace talks with the Kurdish Workers' Party (PKK) leader Abdullah Ocalan. Gülen views the PKK as a threat to his network's existence, especially in Turkey's Kurdish-dominated south east. Gülenists also played a key role in the initial efforts to take down Iranian-Turkish businessman Reza Zarrab over alleged violations related to the bypassing of sanctions on Tehran, leading to three ministers resigning. Both of these events undermined the credibility of the AK Party.

Gülen's self-imposed exile in the US — from where he oversees his $150 billion empire — since 1999; his links with American neocons and the CIA; his massive financial contributions to the Clintons; and his being broadly supportive of Israel when its commandos killed 9 Turkish nationals on the 2010 Freedom Flotilla's Mavi Marmara, have all garnered widespread domestic support for Erdogan's purge of the movement's members from key positions in Turkey.

Despite his re-establishment of ties with Israel, Erdogan has been widely admired for his support of the Palestinians in Gaza, the oppressed Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar and the 3 million Syrians who have found refuge in his country. He angrily denounced Western criticism of his crackdown after the botched coup and accused the West of deserting Turkey in its hour of need. "Some people give us advice," said Erdogan. "They say they are worried. Mind your own business! Look at your own deeds."

Indeed. Europe's targeting and persecution of Muslims and America's reaction after 9/11 has included the invasion, destabilisation and bombing of Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Pakistan, Yemen, Sudan and Syria. Millions of innocent people have been killed and maimed; the US has violated civil liberties and international law; "extraordinary rendition" has led to the illegal imprisonment and torture of thousands in Guantanamo and other "black holes"; and there is much, much more to consider. All, however, are immeasurably worse than Turkey's reaction to a murderous failed coup.

The heroic Turkish people who faced the tanks in their millions with such bravery did not allow their country to be transformed into another Egypt, with Erdogan languishing in an obscure prison like the forgotten Mohamed Morsi. Had the coup succeeded, the West would have feigned initial shock, mouthed meaningless condemnations, and then presented the military takeover as the re-establishment of democracy.

Instead, we have President Erdogan visiting and re-establishing strong ties with Russia's president Putin. In this complex and volatile region, the Turkish leader is also demanding the extradition of the "terrorist" Fethullah Gülen, which could have game-changing consequences. America should contemplate its own recent history and comply with Turkey's request without delay.

The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.

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