Turkey Prepares Extradition Request for U.S.-based Cleric Suspected of Organizing Coup

'If the U.S. insists on keeping him, people will start thinking they are protecting him,' president's spokesman says, referring to Islamic cleric Fethullah Gulen.

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Government supporters burn pictures depicting Islamic cleric Fethullah Gulen during a protest in Taksim Square, Istanbul, Turkey, July 18, 2016.
Government supporters burn pictures depicting Islamic cleric Fethullah Gulen during a protest in Taksim Square, Istanbul, Turkey, July 18, 2016.Credit: Petros Giannakouris, AP
Humeyra Pamuk

REUTERS - Turkey is preparing a formal extradition request for U.S.-based cleric Fethullah Gulen on suspicion that he organised an attempted coup involving several thousand soldiers, Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan's spokesman Ibrahim Kalin said on Tuesday.

"If the U.S. insists on keeping him, people will start thinking they are protecting him," Kalin told reporters in Istanbul. "A person can easily be extradited on the basis of suspicion, and on this occasion there is a lot of suspicion that he orchestrated this," he said.

A U.S. State Department official said later on Tuesday the Turkish government has indicated the U.S. will receive the extradition request. "We still cannot confirm the physical receipt of an extradition request, we're in touch with Turkish officials," the official told Reuters, adding: "They have indicated they will hand it over."

Kalin said the coup attempt was carried out by a tiny fraction of the army and would not affect Turkey's fight against ISIS or Kurdish militants. He described the armed forces as the "final stronghold" of Gulen's network.

He said 14 soldiers had been detained in the coastal town of Marmaris for an attempted attack on Erdogan during the coup bid, but that several members of the group were still at large. No military vehicles, including tanks and helicopters, were unaccounted for, Kalin said.

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