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U.S. officials in Turkey to discuss extradition of exiled cleric, state media says

U.S.-based Turkish cleric Fethullah Gulen has denied involvement in the 2016 failed coup in Turkey.
U.S.-based Turkish cleric Fethullah Gulen has denied involvement in the 2016 failed coup in Turkey. (Charles Mostoller/Reuters)

ISTANBUL — A U.S. delegation met with Turkish officials Thursday to discuss requests to extradite Fethullah Gulen, a Muslim cleric who Turkey says plotted a coup attempt in 2016, state media reported.

U.S. officials did not immediately confirm the talks, which the state-run Anadolu news agency said included FBI agents.

More meetings were planned for Friday, Anadolu reported, during which Turkey would “share new evidence” with U.S. law enforcement.

U.S. officials will also “provide information about investigations” into Gulen in the United States, the agency said.

President Trump said late last year he would consider Turkish demands to expel the cleric, a permanent U.S. resident who lives in exile in Pennsylvania.

White House press secretary Sarah Sanders on Dec. 18 said President Trump would "look at" extraditing dissident cleric Fethullah Gulen. (Video: Reuters)

Turkey has long demanded Gulen, 77, be turned over to stand trial at home. Officials say his network of followers infiltrated state organs and attempted an overthrow from within.

Fethullah Gulen: The Islamic scholar Turkey blames for the failed coup

Gulen, who is the spiritual leader of a worldwide movement that includes schools, clinics and charities, has denied involvement in the plot.

He was once an ally of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, but the two eventually became rivals. The night of the coup attempt in July 2016, a rogue faction of Turkey’s military hijacked fighter jets, tanks and helicopters in a coordinated attack on the Erdogan government.

But the government thwarted the coup attempt and launched a sweeping crackdown on alleged members of Gulen’s movement, including in other countries.

Earlier this year, Deputy Prime Minister Bekir Bozdag said Turkish intelligence agents carried out operations in 18 countries to pursue coup suspects with alleged links to Gulen.

The Turkish government has also waged a campaign to shutter Gulen-funded schools everywhere from Sudan to Pakistan to the United States.

In recent weeks, Turkish officials have stepped up pressure on the Trump administration to extradite Gulen, whose arrest they first demanded in 2016.

Trump told Erdogan in November his administration “would take a look” at Turkey’s extradition request, White House press secretary Sarah Sanders said.

Trump did not commit to fulfilling the request, she said last month.

U.S. officials have previously said Turkey did not provide sufficient evidence for the U.S. Justice Department to apprehend Gulen.

Turkey says its global dragnet has seized dozens of its citizens in 18 countries

What the West struggles to understand about Turkey and Erdogan

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