Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu says Washington has proposed creating a commission to deal with the possible extradition of the U.S.-based cleric whom Ankara blames for last week’s failed coup attempt.
Speaking on July 22, Cavusoglu said Turkey was ready to take part in a commission on the extradition of the exiled founder of the transnational Hizmet social and religious movement, Fethullah Gulen.
Cavusoglu said the United States could carry out the extradition “in a short period” if it was “decisive,” but could draw out the process for years if it chose.
Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has accused the 75-year-old Gulen of masterminding the July 15 coup plot.
Gulen has condemned the coup attempt and denied any involvement -- suggesting instead that it may have been staged by Erdogan as an excuse to crack down on Turkey’s opposition and expand the Turkish president’s powers.
Ankara has said it will request Gulen’s extradition from the United States but has not yet done so, although authorities say they have sent evidence against Gulen to Washington.
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry has said Washington would consider an extradition request, but that there would have to be compelling evidence of Gulen's guilt before he would be extradited.
About 60,000 of Gulen’s suspected followers in Turkey have already been targeted by a crackdown since the attempted coup collapsed early on July 16.
More than 10,000 have been detained -- including 162 generals in Turkey’s armed forces, more than 7,000 other military personnel, 287 police officers, and 2,014 judges and prosecutors.
Another 50,000 people have been suspended from their jobs or face an investigation.
They include police, civil servants, college deans, and teachers.
Turkey’s Hurriyet newspaper reported on July 22 that Ankara may set up special courts for trials of the alleged coup plotters.
Meanwhilie, Prime Minister Binali Yildirim said on July 22 that the danger of more coup-related violence was not over. But he said citizens should relax because the government and other organizations had events under control.
European Union foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini on July 22 expressed concern over Turkey's mass punishments, calling it “unacceptable.”
The EU also has expressed concern about suggestions that Ankara could suspend parts of the European Convention on Human Rights in order to impose the death penalty against coup plotters.
Turkey abolished the death penalty in 2004 as part of its bid to join the EU. Brussels warned on July 22 that the reimposition of the death penalty would mean the end of Turkey’s EU membership bid.
Turkey’s Justice Minister Bekir Bozdag responded to the EU criticism on July 22 by saying there have been “armed Gulenist forces” within Turkey’s army, universities, media, and judiciary.
Bozdag also said the possible use of the death penalty against coup plotters should be considered “from a legal point of view, not on the basis of an EU opinion.”
Bozdag said “the EU cannot tell us much. It has made Turkey wait at the door” of EU membership for decades.
Meanwhile, Erdogan said Gulen’s followers in Turkey would be treated as “another separatist terrorist organization” -- a step that puts the movement on par with Turkey’s outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK).
“We will do everything necessary to have the highest rate of success...[and do] whatever the law allows or admits,” Erdogan said. “They are traitors.”
Speaking to Reuters on July 21 after declaring a three-month state of emergency, Erdogan also said Turkey’s armed forces will be quickly restructured and have “fresh blood.”
He said a meeting of Turkey’s Supreme Military Council scheduled for August 1 may be brought forward to as soon as July 25 in order to oversee the restructuring of the armed forces.
The council -- the top governmental body overseeing Turkey’s military -- is headed by Prime Minister Binali Yildirim and includes Defense Minister Fikri Isik and Chief of the General Staff General Hulusi Akar.
Restructuring of Turkey’s MIT intelligence service also reportedly was being considered.
The state of emergency gives Erdogan and his cabinet special powers to rule by decree.
It allows the government to take speedy measures against coup supporters and to bypass parliament in order to enact new laws or to suspend rights and freedoms as the government sees necessary.
Deputy Prime Minister Numan Kurtulmus said the special emergency powers could last only 45 days, adding that Ankara wants “to end the state of emergency as soon as possible.”
But Erdogan has said there was nothing to prevent the state of emergency from being extended beyond the initial three months if necessary.
“This state of emergency is not a curfew,” Erdogan told Reuters. “People will still be on the street minding their own business and getting on with daily life.”
Cavusoglu, the Turkish foreign minister, also repeated Ankara’s call on July 22 for Greece to extradite eight alleged coup plotters who flew a helicopter to Greece as the attempted coup was crumbling.
A lawyer for the men said the group was transferred to Athens on July 22. They are scheduled to appear at hearings in Athens next week on their requests for political asylum.
The case threatens to strain ties between the two NATO ally countries, with Ankara labeling the eight suspects as “terrorists.”
With reporting by Reuters, AP, and AFP