By Darren Smith, Weekend Contributor
We recently reported HERE arrests made around Turkey of journalists, police, and opposition critical of President Erdogan. Now, an arrest warrant has been issued against Cleric Fethulla Gülen who is presently residing in the United States as an exile.
The Turkish government accuses Gülen of orchestrating a terrorist plot to seize power in Turkey. He has been an outspoken critic of the president and that certainly appears to be a motivator in another campaign to eradicate political opponents of the leadership of our NATO ally.
The court ruled that there was “significant tangible evidence” to charge Gülen. Prosecutors accuse of him of a campaign to arm a terror group; a charge carrying a potential fifteen year prison sentence.
The charges to an outsider certainly appear dubious and of a political nature. The government will likely however seek extradition from the United States. That will certainly prove to be a contentious request.
Turkey and the United States are currently negotiating an agreement with regard to the Islamic State menace that has come to Turkey’s southern border. The former has shown resistance to engaging in the ground expedition due to numerous issues such as the nation’s struggle against a Kurdish insurgency in the East who’s people are presently engaged in open warfare against the IS. The US is both seeking a partner against IS but has considerable issue with Erdogan’s clampdown on dissent and the erosion of certain civil rights of its citizens.
The accusations of terrorism surely are made to address the limitations on political prosecutions contained within the Extradition Treaty between the United States and Turkey which reads in pertinent part:
CONDITIONS OF REFUSAL
(1) Extradition shall not be granted:
(a) If the offense for which extradition is requested is regarded by the Requested Party to be of a political character or an offense connected with such an offense; or if the Requested Party concludes that the request for extradition has, in fact, been made to prosecute or punish the person sought for an offense of a political character or on account of his political opinions.
That certainly could negate efforts to extradite Gülen, provided that the United States chooses to declare the charge as political in nature, especially in light of the diplomatic situation on the ground. Another clause in the treaty might add a measure of questionability:
Subsection (a) continues:
However, any offense committed or attempted against a Head of State or a Head of Government or against a member of their families shall not be deemed to be an offense of a political character.
This could, in fact, provide Turkey with a means to argue for extradition in declaring and showing evidence that Gülen ordered attacks against Erdogan by means of a terrorist campaign.
Evidentiary issues likely will play a major factor in determining whether this is or is not a political issue and the Turkish state is going to have the burden of proving such during any extradition hearing that might occur.
Regardless of the possibility of a successful extradition, the erosion of the Erdogan government’s goodwill continues within the international community. It shows also that dissent is becoming more formidable a problem whenever a government embarks on a course such as this.
By Darren Smith
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