Turkey will not compromise with U.S. on cleric's extradition, PM says

Turkey will not compromise with Washington over the extradition of the Islamic cleric it accuses of orchestrating a failed coup, Prime Minister Binali Yildirim said Saturday, warning of rising anti-Americanism if the United States fails to extradite.

Authorities have prepared official request for detention of accused coup mastermind Fethullah Gulen: report

U.S.-based cleric Fethullah Gulen is shown at his home in Saylorsburg, Penn., on July 29, 2016. Turkey has accused him of being the mastermind behind the failed July 15 coup attempt, a claim he has repeatedly denied. (Charles Mostoller/Reuters)

Turkey will not compromise with Washington over the extradition of the Islamic cleric it accuses of orchestrating a failed coup, Prime Minister Binali Yildirim said Saturday, warning of rising anti-Americanism if the United States fails to extradite.

Yildirim's comments, at a briefing for local reporters, are the latest to take aim at Turkey's NATO ally and coincided with a report that an Istanbul prosecutor wrote to U.S. authorities requesting the detention of the cleric, Fethullah Gulen.

Turkey says Gulen, who has lived in self-imposed exile in rural Pennsylvania since 1999, masterminded the failed July 15 coup attempt, when a group of rogue soldiers commandeered tanks, warplanes and helicopters in an attempt to overthrow the government. Gulen has denied the charge and condemned the coup.

"There is no compromise apart from this chief terrorist coming to Turkey and being prosecuted," Yildirim was quoted as saying by state-run Anadolu Agency.

"The only way to prevent the rising [negative] sentiment against America is for the U.S. to hand over this man and make sure Turkey's justice system holds him accountable."

Turkey's foreign minister said this week documents had been sent to the United States and that Turkey had received "positive signals" about Gulen's possible extradition. But Turkey has not said clearly whether it has filed a formal extradition request.

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Yildirim said a U.S. technical team would visit Turkey on Aug. 22 to discuss legal issues relating to the possible extradition, according to Anadolu. Secretary of State John Kerry is due in October, broadcaster CNN Turk reported.

Yildirim said he believed there would be a "positive outcome" with the United States on the extradition, Anadolu said.

U.S. officials have said that the United States has a formal process for dealing with extradition requests and that Turkey must provide solid evidence of Gulen's involvement.

People gather on top of an army tank at Istanbul's Ataturk Airport during the early-morning hours of July 16, following a coup attempt in Turkey that ultimately killed at least 270 people. (Defne Karadeniz/Getty Images)

The Istanbul chief prosecutor sent a letter to U.S. authorities asking for Gulen's detention, CNN Turk said.

Turkey's Justice Ministry passed on the letter, which accused Gulen of 10 charges, including attempting to overthrow the government, to the United States, it said.

Gulen said on Friday he would only hand himself over to Turkish authorities if an independent international investigative body first found him guilty.

"If a tenth of the accusations against me are established, I pledge to return to Turkey and serve the heaviest sentence," he said in an opinion piece in French daily Le Monde.

Turkey's anger

Ankara has been angered by what it sees as lukewarm condemnation by its Western allies of the failed coup against President Tayyip Erdogan and the government, in which more than 270 people died.

Yildirim said more than 76,000 officials had been suspended and nearly 5,000 dismissed following the coup, including 3,000 soldiers as well as judges and civil servants. The crackdown has raised concerns in the West that Erdogan is using the purge to crack down on dissent.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan waves to the crowd during a massive rally in Istanbul last weekend. More than 1 million flag-waving Turks gathered to mark the end of nightly anti-coup demonstrations since the July 15 attempt. (Kayhan Ozer/Presidential Press Service via AP)

That response has infuriated Ankara, which accuses the West of showing more concern about the purges than the coup itself.

Turkey pushed back Saturday at the UN's top human rights official, who said this week that Ankara should rein in a "thirst for revenge" in the aftermath of the coup.

A foreign ministry spokesman called the remarks from Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein, the UN High Commissioner for Human rights, "unacceptable."

The scope of the crackdown now appears to be even worrying some in the ruling party.

"Even if the shock absorber of a car breaks down, they say someone with [the Gulenists] has done this. This is turning into a witch hunt, losing its credibility," Deputy Prime Minister Tugrul Turkes, formerly a member of the nationalist opposition party and now a member of the ruling AK Party founded by Erdogan, told CNN Turk.