US denies it will extradite Erdogan foe Fethullah Gulen to reduce heat on Saudis | News | DW | 16.11.2018
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US denies it will extradite Erdogan foe Fethullah Gulen to reduce heat on Saudis

The State Department has denied a report claiming the Trump administration was mulling how to extradite Gulen. The move was reportedly designed to ease pressure on ally Saudi Arabia after a journalist was murdered.

The US is studying the motivations of a Turkish request to extradite preacher Fethullah Gulen, the US state department said Thursday.

NBC News earlier reported that the White House was attempting to send Gulen, despite reportedly holding permanent residency, to reduce pressure on its ally Saudi Arabia after the killing of journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert told AFP news agency it rejected that report. "We have received multiple requests from the Turkish government... related to Mr. Gulen," Nauert said. "We continue to evaluate the material that the Turkish government presents requesting his extradition."

She said there was no relation between those extradition requests and the Turkish backlash to continued American support of Saudi Arabia. The White House "has not been involved in any discussions related to the extradition of Fetullah Gulen," she said.

Read more: Turkey using Jamal Khashoggi's killing as political leverage

White House searches for deportation grounds

The NBC report said Trump administration officials were asking law enforcement agencies for advice on how to extradite Gulen to reduce Turkish pressure on the Saudi government. It said, citing four sources, the White House had sent directives to the Justice Department and FBI to reopen the extradition case and had sent a request to Homeland Security for information about his legal status.

A White House official separately told Reuters news agency the NBC story was "not accurate" without elaborating.

The Erdogan regime accuses Gulen of instigating a failed 2016 coup and has long called for his repatriation from the US, where he has lived in self-imposed exile since 1999.

Turkey has exerted massive pressure on Saudi Arabia after the apparent state-sanctioned murder of the journalist Khashoggi in its Istanbul embassy. Despite growing international pressure, US President Donald Trump is reluctant to break ties with the Saudi regime, as it is considered critical for his efforts to curb Iran's growing influence in the region.

aw/bw (AFP, Reuters)

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