Kerry says US awaits 'formal request' for Gulen extradition

Secretary of State John Kerry speaks during a tour the Jakobshavn Glacier and the Ilulissat Icefjord, located near the Arctic Circle, Friday, June 17, 2016, in Ilulissat, Greenland.


By MICHELLE JAMRISKO | Bloomberg | Published: July 17, 2016

The U.S. is awaiting a formal plea to turn over a Pennsylvania-based cleric suspected by Turkey of inspiring a military coup attempt, said Secretary of State John Kerry, dismissing as "irresponsible" any accusation of U.S. involvement in the uprising.

"We have not had a formal request for extradition -- that has to come in a formal package" and be sent to the Justice Department, Kerry said on CNN's "State of the Union" broadcast on Sunday. "Give us the evidence, show us the evidence. We need a solid legal foundation that meets the standard of extradition in order for our courts to approve such a request."

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who's ordered massive reprisals for the failed attempt to oust him, confirmed Sunday from Istanbul that such a formal request will be submitted. On Saturday he had challenged President Barack Obama directly to turn over Fethullah Gulen, an Islamic preacher who lives in exile in rural Pennsylvania, saying Turkey's NATO ally needs to do what is necessary "if we are truly strategic partners."

Kerry pushed back against an insinuation, made most forcefully by Turkish Labor Minister Suleyman Soylu, that the U.S. was involved in the military uprising that left almost 200 dead before the Erdogan-led government regained control Saturday.

"The United States is not harboring anybody, we're not preventing anything from happening," Kerry said. "We think it's irresponsible to have accusations of American involvement when we're simply waiting for their request" for the extradition.

In a separate interview on ABC's "This Week," Kerry said that in one of three conversations he had Saturday with Turkey's foreign minister, "I reiterated that the faster they get us the evidence, not allegations but evidence, we will immediately evaluate it."

Kerry also said that the coup had caught Washington by surprise.

"I don't think anybody's intelligence had information -- particularly the Turkish intelligence," he said on CNN. "The nature of a coup -- you rarely have indicators" in advance, he said.