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Gulen mulls fleeing US to avoid extradition: Turkish minister

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
Turkey’s US-based opposition cleric Fethullah Gulen (Photo by AFP)

Turkey’s justice minister says intelligence shows that Pennsylvania-based opposition cleric Fethullah Gulen, who is blamed for the mid-July failed coup, is seeking to flee the US following Ankara’s request for his extradition.

Speaking to journalists on Tuesday, Bekir Bozdag said followers of the Gulen movement are trying to accommodate their 75-year-old leader in a country other than the US, stressing that Washington has not taken any concrete measure concerning Ankara’s extradition request.

“We have not received any response yet. US authorities have not requested new information and a file. Actually, we have provided them with very clear evidence, confirming Gulen’s culpability as the mastermind of the failed July 15 coup attempt,” Bozdag said.

The Turkish justice minister had hinted on July 28 that Gulen could flee to Australia, Mexico, Canada, South Africa or Egypt, which do not have extradition treaties with Turkey.

Last month, the Turkish government sent an official request to the United States demanding the arrest of Gulen on charges of “ordering” the abortive coup.

Washington has so far refused to extradite the Turkish cleric, saying it needs “genuine evidence that withstands the standard of scrutiny.”

A section of the Turkish military declared itself in charge of the country on the night of July 15. Renegade military personnel made use of battle tanks and helicopters to fight loyalists to the incumbent government in Ankara and Istanbul.

People try to take over a tank in Ankara, Turkey, during a protest against a military coup on July 16, 2016. (Photo by AFP)

The coup attempt was later put down as tens of thousands of people flooded streets across Turkey to support the government.

At least 246 people lost their lives and more than 2,100 others sustained injuries in the botched putsch.

Turkish authorities have dismissed or suspended thousands of people from work over suspected links to Gulen. The US-based Muslim preacher and opposition figure has censured the coup attempt and strongly denied any involvement in the violence.

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