The U.S. should not extradite a Pennsylvania resident accused of staging a failed coup against Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
First and foremost, the U.S. has a duty to protect its residents. This duty needs to come before a desire to appease foreign leaders.
On July 15, the streets of Turkey came alive as unknown individuals staged a coup against Erdogan and his supporters. Although the coup ultimately failed, 290 people were killed and 1,400 were injured in the attempt.
CNN news reporters say that Erdogan originally believed low-ranking military officers were behind the coup, but he later accused cleric Fethullah Gulen.
Fethullah Gulen moved to the U.S. from Turkey in 1999. Residing deep in the Poconos, Gulen lives in self-imposed exile.
Gulen denies Erdogan's accusations. He told CNN News reporters that he lived through many coups during his time in Turkey, and would not inflict that kind of threat on democracy and the people of Turkey.
Gulen, who is elderly and in poor health, also told reporters that he is in his last days of life, and would like to remain in the U.S., where he has permanent resident status, rather than returning to Turkey to face underserved punishment.
Erdogan and Gulen have been bitter rivals for a long time, so the Turkish president’s accusations do not come as a surprise. They do come as a challenge to U.S. officials presented with the task of deciding whether to extradite him or not.
Secretary of State John Kerry stated in an interview with ABC’s “This Week,” “We're not holding back from doing anything, nor have we ever been.”
Holding back from extraditing Gulen is, without question, the right thing to do for humanitarian and politically strategic reasons.
The New York Times explains that enraged Turkish leaders would like to reinstate the death penalty as punishment for traitors of their country. Perpetrators of the failed coup would fall into this category.
Turkey has been trying to gain membership in the European Union, but leaders of the EU question the country’s stability. If the president decides to reinstate the death penalty, its chances of joining the EU would decrease drastically. Furthermore, NATO could use the reinstatement of the death penalty to terminate Turkey’s membership.
EU leaders and Kerry have warned Erdogan and his advisers of these consequences. Still, Erdogan seems to press forward with his quest for revenge.
Kerry said U.S. officials would have to review all of the evidence extensively, whether presented by the Turkish government or found on its own. He added, “Turkey is a friend. Turkey is an ally.”
Erdogan wrote to President Barack Obama, saying, “Dear Mr. President, I told you this before. Either arrest Fethullah Gulen or return him to Turkey. You didn't listen. I call on you again, after there was a coup attempt. Extradite this man in Pennsylvania to Turkey! If we are strategic partners or model partners, do what is necessary.”
Sending Gulen to Turkey would guarantee, almost certainly, his death. Turkey is on the brink of reinstating the death penalty, despite NATO and the EU’s warnings. CNN News reports that a purge of Gulenists in Turkey had already been scheduled.
The last thing the U.S. would want to do at the moment is upset the leader of an ally country, especially a one hat has a recent history of tensions with America. But considerations of an American resident’s life must come before all of that.
The U.S., as the land of the free and home of the brave, has a duty to keep Gulen on American soil.