Turkey said Friday it has received “positive signals” from the United States over its requests to extradite Pennsylvania-based preacher Fethullah Gulen, who reiterated that he would only hand himself over to Turkish authorities if an independent international investigative body first found him guilty.
“We have started to receive some positive signals on the calls we have made” for Gulen’s extradition, Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu told reporters in Ankara, saying further documents relating to the case for his deportation were being drawn up to send to Washington.
Gulen is accused of ordering the July 15 coup during which a group within the military tried to remove President Recep Tayyip Erdogan from power. He strongly denies the claim.
The U.S.-based cleric said, however: “If a tenth of the accusations against me are established, I pledge to return to Turkey and serve the heaviest sentence.”
Gulen said in an opinion piece in French daily Le Monde that he believed the Turkish justice system was now controlled by the country’s executive arm.
Turkey is pressing the United States to extradite the 75-year-old cleric and has purged tens of thousands of his suspected followers from the armed forces, other state institutions, the media and academia.
“Everyone in the world knows who is behind this coup attempt,” Cavusoglu said. Last week, an arrest warrant was issued in Turkey for Gulen.
The minister said Secretary of State John Kerry and Vice President Joe Biden expressed their intention to come to Turkey but would not confirm previous comments made by Ankara that Kerry would visit on August 24.
Cavusoglu also told reporters during a press conference with his Iranian counterpart Mohammad Javad Zarif that 32 Turkish diplomats were still missing despite being recalled by Ankara in the wake of last month’s failed coup.
“Thirty-two of the 208 diplomats recalled to Turkey did not come back to Turkey,” the minister said.
He said Ankara had information that some had fled to other countries using different means including air travel in the weeks after the coup attempt.
Meanwhile, Turkey’s state-run Anadolu news agency said authorities have issued a warrant for the arrest of former soccer star and legislator Hakan Sukur over his links to Gulen.
Anadolu said the warrant was issued late on Thursday, accusing Sukur of “membership in an armed terror organization.”
Sukur, who reportedly left Turkey last year, was a Turkey international who played for Inter Milan and Galatasaray. He was elected to parliament in 2011 but resigned from the ruling party following the government’s rift with Gulen.