Turkish diplomats suggest new formula for Gülen movement members’ extradition

Turkish diplomats proposed defining the Gülen movement, a religious group Turkey accuses of orchestrating a coup attempt in 2016, as an “armed criminal organisation” instead of a “terrorist organisation” to ensure the extradition of Gülenists abroad, Cumhuriyet newspaper reported on Thursday.

The Turkish government launched a massive crackdown inside Turkey and abroad against followers of the movement, which it labels as the Fethullahist Terrorist Organisation (FETÖ), following the coup attempt, in which more than 200 people died. 

Turkey has filed extradition requests to return Gülen movement members, but several countries declined saying that Turkey’s assurances of fair trial were insufficient. Last week, Brazil joined those countries after its Supreme Court rejected Turkey’s extradition request for Gülen-linked businessman Ali Sipahi saying there was no guarantee that Sipahi would get a fair trial.

In a meeting last week in Ankara, Turkish diplomats suggested to Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu that Turkey rebrand the Gülen movement to help facilitate the extraditions, Cumhuriyet said citing unidentified people with knowledge of the alleged proposal.

The diplomats said that Turkey would have had a stronger hand if it had defined the group as an “armed criminal organisation” because FETÖ had not been designated as a terrorist group in other countries, according to Cumhuriyet. It would also have made it easier for Turkish authorities to track the financing of the movement, Cumhuriyet said citing backdoor talks among diplomats.

The Turkish Justice Ministry has filed extradition requests to return 570 people from 94 countries over alleged links to the Gülen movement. It has also requested the temporary detention of 152 followers in 54 countries. Some 23 countries have extradited 109 people so far.