ANKARA, Turkey, Aug. 9 (UPI) — Turkey’s justice minister on Tuesday said the United States “will sacrifice relations with Turkey for the sake of a terrorist” if it does not extradite the man accused of planning a failed coup d’etat.
Turkish Justice Minister Bekir Bozdag said anti-American sentiment in Turkey is at its peak due to the extradition issue over Fethullah Gulen, a cleric living in Pennsylvania who the administration of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan blames for planning the failed military coup on July 15.
“If the U.S. does not deliver [Gulen], they will sacrifice relations with Turkey for the sake of a terrorist,” Bozdag said during a televised interview, adding it is up to the United States to prevent anti-American sentiment in Turkey from turning into hate.
“I believe U.S is a great state and it will do what is expected from a great state and extradite,” Bozdag said.
The Turkish government has attempted to pressure the United States into handing over Gulen since the failed coup. The administration of President Barack Obama said that solid evidence of Gulen’s involvement with the coup must be provided for any extradition process to begin.
Gulen’s lawyers last week said Turkey has not provided any evidence to prove he was involved.
“Extradition is fundamentally a legal process. We are lawyers and we deal with evidence and we deal with due process and — guess what? — in extradition proceedings, evidence matters and due process matters,” Reid Weingarten, one of Gulen’s lawyers, said.
More than 270 people died during the failed coup attempt. Bozdag said at least 16,000 people have been formally arrested in connection with the coup attempt, with more than 26,000 being detained. Erdogan’s critics accuse him of using the failed coup as an excuse to crack down on opposition.