Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu has said he submitted a list of 84 followers of the Gülen movement to the US requesting their extradition to Turkey, Turkey’s state-run Anadolu news agency reported on Tuesday.
Çavuşoğlu met with US State Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in Washington on Tuesday during which time they discussed a wide range of issues.
Turkey’s extradition request for Gülen followers who live in exile in the US was one of the issues discussed during the meeting.
The Turkish government accuses the Gülen movement of masterminding a failed coup attempt on July 15, 2016 and labels it a “terrorist organization,” although the movement strongly denies involvement in the coup attempt or any terrorist activity.
Speaking to Turkish journalists at the residence of the Turkish ambassador in Washington following his meeting with Pompeo, Çavuşoğlu said: “We gave the list of 84 [Gülen-linked] people whose extradition we are requesting from the US. [US President Donald]Trump already asked for this list during a phone conversation with our president [Recep Tayyip Erdoğan]. We gave this list to be conveyed to Trump. We gave that list both to Pompeo and [John] Bolton[Trump’s national security adviser].”
Last week, NBC News reported, citing two senior US officials and two other people briefed on the requests, that Trump administration officials last month asked federal law enforcement agencies to examine legal ways of removing Fethullah Gülen, whose views inspired the movement, in an attempt to persuade Erdoğan to ease pressure on the Saudi government due to the killing of a Saudi journalist at the İstanbul consulate in October.
However, the US State Department denied the report, saying the Gülen extradition and the Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi murder were unrelated issues.
Erdoğan has for years demanded the US send Gülen back to Turkey. The Turkish leader accuses the elderly cleric of being a terrorist who was behind the failed coup against Erdoğan’s government in 2016. After the coup attempt, Ankara made a formal request to the US for Gülen’s extradition.
Gülen, who has lived in self-imposed exile in the US for almost two decades, denies any involvement in the failed coup in Turkey. A one-time ally of Erdoğan, he has become an influential cleric with a wide network of followers. His movement includes a host of non-profit organizations, businesses and schools in the US.