Turkey: US Shouldn’t ‘Sacrifice’ Alliance Over Muslim Cleric

ANKARA, Turkey (AP) -
U.S.-based cleric Fethullah Gulen, whose followers Turkey blames for a failed coup, pauses before speaking to journalists in this still image taken from video, at his home in Saylorsburg, Pennsylvania July 16, 2016. Gulen said democracy cannot be achieved through military action. REUTERS/Greg Savoy/Reuters TV
U.S.-based cleric Fethullah Gulen  at his home in Saylorsburg, Pennsylvania, July 16. (Reuters/Greg Savoy)

Turkey’s justice minister said Tuesday the United States would be sacrificing its alliance with Turkey to benefit “a terrorist” if it were to refuse to extradite a U.S.-based Muslim cleric who the government says is behind the July 15 failed coup.

Justice Minister Bekir Bozdag also told the state-run Anadolu Agency that anti-American sentiment in Turkey was reaching “its peak” over the issue of cleric Fethullah Gulen’s return and risked turning into hatred.

Turkey has branded Gulen’s movement a terror organization and wants him returned to Turkey to face trial. Washington has said it would need evidence of the cleric’s involvement, and says the regular extradition process must be allowed to take its course.

Gulen, who lives in self-imposed exile in Pennsylvania, has denied involvement in the violent coup attempt that left more than 270 people dead.

“If (the United States) does not return him, it will have sacrificed Turkey to a terrorist,” Bozdag said. “The United States is a great state and I believe will do what is expected from a great state.”

The government has launched a sweeping crackdown targeting Gulen’s followers in the aftermath of the coup. European nations and human rights groups have expressed alarm over the scope of Turkey’s crackdown, triggering anger from Turkish officials who have complained of a lack of support for Turkey over the failed coup.