ANKARA (Reuters)—The United States does not need to take years to extradite U.S.-based Muslim cleric, Fethullah Gulen, accused by Turkey of masterminding a failed military coup, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said on Friday.
Washington has said Ankara must first provide clear evidence of Gulen’s involvement in the attempted coup and lawyers have said any extradition process could take years. Gulen has condemned the July 15 abortive coup and denied any involvement.
“If you want to draw out the Gulen extradition issue it can take years, but if you are decisive it can be completed in a short period,” Cavusoglu told state broadcaster TRT Haber.
Cavusoglu said the United States had proposed setting up a commission to discuss the Gulen extradition issue and said Turkey was ready to take part. He also said Gulen should not be allowed to flee to another country in the meantime.
President Barack Obama said on Friday he has told Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan that Ankara must present evidence if it wants to extradite Gulen.
Obama, speaking to a news conference, said he told Erdogan the United States supports his democratically elected government and that any reports that Washington had prior knowledge of the attempted overthrow were completely false.
Turkey is asking its nationals living abroad to report people and organizations that support Gulen to Turkish authorities, Swedish Radio reported on Friday.
In a crackdown on Gulen’s suspected followers, more than 60,000 soldiers, police, judges, civil servants and educators have been suspended, detained or placed under investigation.
On a Facebook page that caters to supporters of Turkey’s ruling AK Party, a post urged people to call a Turkish number and provide information about supporters of Gulen.
When calling the phone number, Swedish Radio reported it reached the president’s office that confirmed it was interested in information about Gulen supporters also in Sweden and said it wanted “all information you could give, personal data and addresses.”
No one picked up during regular office hours when Reuters called the number on Friday.
Turkey’s ambassador to Sweden, Kaya Turkmen, had not been aware of the post, Swedish Radio said, but he said he found it natural that the Turkish state would be interested in such information.
“Every state has a right to collect information on activities that are directed against it, even if it is individuals living in Sweden,” Turkmen told Swedish Radio, which added there had been similar posts on social media in Germany and Austria.