Does the US have to extradite Gulen?

Turkey demands the US hand over self-exiled Imam Fethullah Gulen. Are they forcing America's hand?

Rachel Kaplan ,

Fethullah Gulen
Fethullah Gulen
Reuters

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has called for the extradition of Imam Fethullah Gulen, 75, who currently resides in Saylorsburg, Pennsylvania.

Turkey will submit a formal extradition request in several days, Erdogan told CNN.

Erdogan accuses Gulen of instigating Friday's attempted coup d'etat. Gulen denies the charges.

The US has an extradition treaty with Turkey. The question is: does that force them to hand over Gulan?

Generally, the US will honor an extradition request if it falls in line with three conditions: the offense was an "extraditable act," there is "double criminality," and the requesting state complies with "speciality."

An "extraditable act" includes any act that is specifically named in the treaty, or which is defined by the type of punishment given. Erdogan has accused Gulan of treason, which is not listed in the US-Turkey agreement. However, the treaty does allow for the extradition for any crime which would be punished by both countries with a minimum loss of liberty of one year, or worse.

"Dual criminality" means that the act is illegal in both states. If Erdogan accuses Gulan of criticizing the government on social media, he has no case. However, if he claims that Gulan was involved in "conspiracy" or "malicious damage to property," then he will cover that base.

"Speciality" ensures that a person isn't extradited for one crime, and then charged for something else when he lands in the treaty country. If the US suspects that cloak-and-dagger tactics are being used to extradite the criminal, then it can refuse the request.

Even if Erdogan fulfills all these requirements, however, Gulan still has one saving grace: the "political offense" exception. Designed to keep countries out of each others' internal politics, a political offender may not be extradited, as it may assist the incumbent government in cracking down on sedition. There is also a concern that the criminal may be unfairly punished for rebellious political activity.



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