U.S. officials don`t expect to extradite an imam Turkey blames for masterminding a failed coup because they aren`t convinced by the evidence Ankara has presented and are troubled by threatening public statements from Turkish officials, according to people familiar with the discussions, according to The Wall Street Journal.
U.S. and Turkish officials have privately discussed scenarios under which Fethullah Gulen might be extradited, but American authorities have yet to be persuaded there is a valid case for extradition, these people said. Mr. Gulen, who lives in rural Pennsylvania, has denied playing any role in the plot to overthrow President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, WSJ wrote.
The more Turkish officials, including the president and prime minister, talk publicly about Mr. Gulen`s alleged role in the coup and demand his immediate transfer, the less likely such a transfer becomes, the people said. Such comments raise questions about the potential fairness of Mr. Gulen`s treatment in Turkey, they said.
No final decision has been made, and the extradition discussions are expected to go on for months, these people said. Still, among people familiar with the discussions, several said they couldn`t now envision a scenario in which Mr. Gulen is ultimately turned over to Turkish authorities.
Lawyers for Mr. Gulen didn`t immediately comment.
Turkish officials said they have yet to present their full case for extradition to the U.S. and that the discussions are ongoing. They said they expect to present new evidence to their American counterparts in coming weeks that they believe will highlight the links between Mr. Gulen and the coup plotters.
U.S. intelligence officials said Washington didn`t give high priority to surveillance of Mr. Gulen`s supporters in Turkey before the coup, so the U.S. has little intelligence of its own to back up the information that Turkish authorities say they are obtaining through interrogations of the alleged plotters.
U.S. officials also said the circumstances under which Mr. Erdogan has rounded up domestic opponents since the coup has added to their doubts about the trustworthiness of the evidence.
Turkey has demanded that Mr. Gulen, 75 years old, be extradited because, they say, he directed the failed coup which led to the deaths of 271 people, though Turkey hasn`t made a formal request. U.S. officials have asked Turkey to provide their evidence for this assertion.
Turkish officials said two batches of evidence have been provided, but the Americans view the evidence provided to date by the Turks as not usable in court, according to people familiar with the matter.