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Journalists refute Turkish media reports claiming exiled cleric Gülen’s extradition

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Three Turkish journalists visited the residence of Turkish cleric Fethullah Gülen, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s arch-enemy who has lived in self-imposed exile in the US since 1999, refuting recent reports in the Turkish media that Gülen had been extradited to Turkey, the TR724 news website reported.

President Erdoğan and his ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) government pursued a crackdown on the faith-based movement inspired by Gülen following corruption operations in December 2013 in which the inner circle of the government and then-prime minister Erdoğan were implicated.

Erdoğan also accuses Gülen of masterminding a failed coup in Turkey on July 15, 2016.

Despite Gülen and the movement strongly denying involvement in the abortive putsch, Erdoğan launched a witch-hunt targeting the movement in its aftermath.

On Tuesday journalist Müyesser Yıldız, in a column on her personal website, alleged that Gülen had been secretly extradited to Turkey by the US in exchange for undisclosed concessions, a claim that has sparked significant controversy.

Speculation about Gülen’s whereabouts began after Ebuseleme Gülen, Gülen’s nephew, released a video last week claiming that his uncle had been kidnapped from his home in the US. His father, Gülen’s brother Mesih Gülen, shared a video on social media apologizing for his son’s behavior and stating that he was mentally unwell and had previously tried to return to Turkey, where anyone with the Gülen surname is persecuted. Ebuseleme had to be put in an adult behavior center for a period of time after this attempt.

Journalists Adem Yavuz Arslan, Abdülhamit Bilici and Metin Yıkar, who live in the Washington, D.C., area, visited Gülen on June 5, 2024, to report on the circumstances of Gülen’s whereabouts for TR724.

Although Gülen had health problems, he was not in critical condition and was able to interact with the journalists, they said, showing a video of their interaction. He was in a new location to recuperate in a calmer environment on the advice of his doctors. The purpose of the visit was to clear up the rumors and provide the public with factual information. The journalists said Gülen was doing better than he had been a few months ago.

The journalists spoke about the wave of misinformation and sensationalism following Ebuseleme Gülen’s claims. They said the Turkish media and some opposition figures tend to engage in sensationalism and make unverified claims.

In a YouTube video about their visit, Arslan, Bilici and Yıkar pointed out how reports about Gülen are used to distract the public from important issues in Turkey, such as the financial plight of citizens and political scandals. They criticized the tactic of “creating hype around Gülen” to divert attention from more pressing issues. The discussion also focused on the general persecution of Gülen’s followers in Turkey, including arbitrary arrests and human rights violations.

Despite Turkey’s repeated demands for Gülen’s extradition, US authorities have not found sufficient evidence to proceed.

US media reported in 2017 that Gülen was part of a potential bargain between former President Donald Trump’s National Security Advisor Michael Flynn and top Turkish officials.

An alleged plan that involved Flynn forcibly removing Gülen in return for millions of dollars was investigated by Special Counsel Robert Mueller, The Wall Street Journal reported on November 10, 2017.

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