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Turkish justice minister says will focus on Gülen, not Zarrab, in US

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Turkish Justice Minister Bekir Bozdağ said a visit to the US that will start on Sunday would focus on the temporary detention of Turkish Islamic scholar Fethullah Gülen and his extradition to Turkey, not on Turkish-Iranian businessman Reza Zarrab, who was arrested in the US in 2016 for violating sanctions against Iran, the state-run Anadolu news agency reported on Saturday.

“We will bring them [Gülen and his followers] to Turkey sooner or later,” Bozdağ said, speaking to party members in Yozgat.

The Turkish government accuses the Gülen movement of masterminding a coup attempt on July 15 but has so far failed to persuade the international community of the claim.

Contrary to accusations made by President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and the Turkish government, Devin Nunes, chairman of United States House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, said in March that he has not seen any evidence showing Gülen’s involvement in the putsch in Turkey.

Similarly the Foreign Affairs Committee of the UK Parliament concluded in March that Gülen and the movement he inspired as a whole were not behind the failed coup in Turkey.
The head of Germany’s Federal Intelligence Service (BND), Bruno Kahl, said in March that Turkey could not convince them that US-based Turkish-Islamic scholar Gülen was behind the failed coup in July.

Recalling that he would meet with the US attorney general on Monday ahead of a visit by President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan to Washington, Bozdağ said: “Some prosecutors who are working on this file [cases against the Gülen movement] are accompanying me, and they will have some technical meetings there, too.”

Underlining that the visit would focus on Gülen, Bozdağ denied that the main focus would be Zarrab, saying, “You are lying.”

Last month Erdoğan said Zarrab’s case was one of the issues he would discuss with US President Donald Trump when they meet in May.

Erdoğan said Zarrab is a Turkish citizen and that Turkey has to act to defend him.

Zarrab was the prime suspect in a major corruption investigation that became public in December 2013 in which then-Prime Minister Erdoğan’s inner circle was implicated. Zarrab was arrested by US authorities in Miami in March 2016 on charges of helping Iran process millions of dollars of transactions when it was under US sanctions for its nuclear program.
However, shortly after Zarrab’s arrest, Erdoğan said the arrest of the businessman in the US is “none of Turkey’s business.”

What disturbed Erdoğan and other Turkish officials is that former US Attorney for the Southern District of New York Preet Bharara’s office cited the 2013 corruption investigation into Erdoğan and other Cabinet members in the Zarrab indictment in New York.

When the graft probe was launched, Erdoğan’s government retaliated by purging the police chiefs and prosecutors who initiated the corruption investigation and introduced new legislation that restructured the judicial system to establish more political control over it.

With all prosecutors either reassigned to other posts or dismissed, and some even later arrested, the probe was dropped and Zarrab was acquitted of charges thanks to government intervention in the legal proceedings.

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