Turkey’s Justice Ministry has officially asked the US to temporarily arrest Turkish Islamic scholar Fethullah Gülen, claiming that he gave the order for a military coup attempt in Turkey in July and coordinated its operation, the TRT Haber news portal reported on Tuesday.
According to TRT Haber, Justice Ministry officials have sent a petition to the US that says: “In addition to many other crimes, this person [Gülen] is wanted for arrest as the mastermind of a bloody coup attempt that took place on July 15, 2016, in our country.”
The ministry also included with its letter an arrest warrant issued by the Ankara 2nd Penal Court of Peace for Gülen as part of an investigation conducted by the Ankara Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office into the coup attempt.
Turkish authorities claim Gülen, who lives in Pennsylvania, was the mastermind behind the violent coup attempt that killed over 240 people and injured a thousand others on July 15, while Gülen strongly denies any involvement.
The Turkish government and President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan have designated the faith-based Gülen movement, inspired by Gülen and operating charities, schools and businesses around the world, as a terrorist organization and have launched a widespread crackdown on suspected members since the failed coup.
US Vice President Biden, who paid a visit to Ankara last month, said the US administration wants to cooperate with Turkey over the Turkish government’s request for the extradition of Gülen but that it is a US court that will make the decision.
Although Gülen called for an international investigation into the coup attempt, Erdoğan — calling the coup attempt “a gift from God” — and the government launched a widespread purge aimed at cleansing sympathizers of the movement from within state institutions, dehumanizing its popular figures and putting them in custody.
A report published by the German Focus magazine last month claimed that Turkish government members decided to put the blame for the coup attempt on Gülen half an hour after the uprising and agreed to begin a purge of Gülen followers the next day.
The German magazine wrote its report based on interceptions of phone calls by English intelligence, emails and SMS messages of members of the Turkish government.