Turkey sends dossiers on Gulen to US amid demands for extradition

Turkey sent the United States four dossiers on the Islamic cleric it believes was behind the weekend's failed coup attempt, according to news reports Tuesday, as the government seeks his arrest amid widespread dismissals in state institutions.

Turkish Justice Minister Bekir Bozdag said Turkey had sent the files on Fethullah Gulen, an Islamic cleric living in self-imposed exile in the US, according to CNN Turk.

Turkey's post-coup purge continued on Tuesday, raising to nearly 29,000 the number of government employees who have been suspended in recent days, including more than 6,300 soldiers.

Prime Minister Binali Yildirim has promised Washington ample evidence linking Gulen, who lives in Pennsylvania in self-imposed exile, to the coup attempt, but asked why the US is demanding so much proof.

"Why do you insist on evidence when it is so clear and obvious anyway, while you did not ask for evidence for Bin Laden?" the premier said.

The US confirmed reciept of the Turkish documents Tuesday though declined to say they constituted a formal extradition request.

"I cannot confirm a formal request has been made, but Turkish officials have sent over electronic documents that the US is currently reviewing," White House spokesman Josh Earnest said.

"The US doesn't support individuals who conspired to overthrow democratically elected governments," Earnest said, adding: "There also is due process to which people who live in the United States are entitled to."

Meanwhile, US President Barack Obama spoke to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan by phone and condemned the coup attempt while lauding the Turkish people's "resolve against this violent intervention."

Obama however urged that the "investigations and prosecution of the coup's perpetrators be conducted in ways that reinforce public confidence in democratic institutions and the rule of law," the White House said.

He also said the US would provide "appropriate assistance" to Turkish authorities investigating the coup attempt.

The latest purges include 15,200 people at the ministry of education, 257 employees of the prime minister's office and 492 people at the Presidency of Religious Affairs, Turkey's highest governmental religious body, state news agency Anadolu reported.

Among the dismissals were nearly 3,000 members of the judiciary, with nearly 1,500 judges and prosecutors arrested.

Among the soldiers arrested were 115 generals. Anadolu reported 650 civilian detainments and 990 civilian arrests. Also, 210 police officers have been suspended.

The Council of Higher Education was also demanding the resignation of 1,577 deans.

Turkey's broadcasting authority has revoked the licences of 24 radio and television stations, accusing them of ties to the Gulenist movement. This follows the blocking of about 20 online news portals in recent days.

Anadolu updated the death toll, saying 173 civilians were killed in the revolt along with 67 members of the security forces. Nearly 1,491 people - loyalists and civilians - were reported injured.

The Foreign Ministry said on Sunday more than 100 mutineers had died in the failed putsch.

The office of the chief of staff of the Turkish armed forces vowed to punish "treacherous terrorists" who perpetrated the failed coup attempt at the weekend.

"Those scoundrels who caused this humiliation and disgrace to the republic of Turkey ... will be punished most severely," a statement read.

Erkan Kivrak, described as Erdogan's main military aide, has also been taken into custody, Anadolu reported. He is the second high-level aide to the president to be detained.

The coup attempt has opened up a debate in Turkey on reinstating the death penalty as a form of punishment for plotters.

Turkey's main right-wing party on Tuesday threw its support behind bringing back capital punishment.

The leader of the National Movement Party (MHP), Devlet Bahceli, said that if Erdogan's ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) were ready to put forth a constitutional measure, then MHP would back it.

Together, both parties would have enough votes to call a referendum on the death penalty, which Turkey abolished in 2004. The referendum would need only a simple voter majority to pass.

But UN human rights chief Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein warned that Turkey has signed on to an international agreement aiming to abolish the death penalty, and that international law does not permit withdrawing from such pacts.

"I urge the Turkish government to refrain from turning back the clock on human rights protections,” said Zeid.

Reinstituting capital punishment would be diplomatically troubling to many of Turkey's Western allies. The EU, which Turkey has sought to join since 1999, does not allow the death penalty.

Erdogan said on Monday in his first interview since the putsch attempt that he and legislators would discuss reviving the death penalty, saying that he would "approve any decision [on the issue] to come out of the parliament."

Last update: Tue, 19/07/2016 - 23:24

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