On Wednesday, several Turkish media outlets published records of an official document that the U.S. Department of Homeland Security had shared with the Turkish Directorate General of Security in September 2017. The document was recently accepted as evidence by the 17th High Criminal Court and it serves as proof that Kemal Batmaz, who stands accused of being one of the masterminds of last summer's failed coup in Turkey, has ties with Fetullah Gülen, a known terrorist and Turkish national who has been living in the United States since 1999. Although Washington's decision to share that key piece of information with Turkey is a step in the right direction, U.S. officials must take additional steps, including the extradition of Gülen to Turkey, to disassociate themselves from the July 15 coup attempt.
A popular claim in the Turkey has been that the United States was complicit in last summer's failed coup in Turkey, which claimed the lives of 250 innocent people and left close to 2,200 people injured.
First and foremost, advocates of this view note that Fetullah Gülen continues to live in rural Pennsylvania and to lead FETÖ, a terrorist organization according to Turkey and the Organization for Islamic Cooperation, without interference by U.S. authorities.
At the same time, they note that Kemal Batmaz and Adil Öksüz, two senior Gülenists who have been identified among chief suspects in the July 15 coup attempt, had frequently traveled to the United States – sometimes on the same flights – to meet with Gülen and receive instructions ahead of the failed coup.
Among other things, a sworn affidavit by Staff Col. Hakan Bıyık, who is currently on trial for his involvement in the assassination plot against President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, indicated that Batmaz and Öksüz were among the masterminds of the July 15 coup bid.
Over the past months, the Turkish authorities had uncovered tens of thousands of documents, photographs and video supporting the claim that Batmaz was indeed a FETÖ member and a close associate of Fetullah Gülen. There is overwhelming evidence, moreover, showing that Adil Öksüz, who remains at large, was among the closest associates of Gülen.
Numerous reports, including a Daily Sabah Centre report that shows evidence of Gülen's involvement in last summer's failed coup, had established that Batmaz and Öksüz were card-carrying Gülenists. As such, the document shared by the U.S. with Turkish authorities could be the missing piece of the puzzle.
The official document revealed that Kemal Batmaz had told U.S. Homeland Security officials at Newark Liberty International Airport in January 2016 that he was going to Fetullah Gülen's residence in Saylorsburg, Pennsylvania. The document clearly establishes that Gülen and his civilian collaborators were indeed linked to last summer's coup attempt in Turkey.
Although Washington's cooperation with the Turkish authorities is a welcoming development, it remains unclear why U.S. officials buried a crucial piece of evidence against a known terrorist. What Washington needs to do without further delay, therefore, is to send everything they have on Adil Öksüz and Kemal Batmaz to Turkey in order to facilitate the judicial proceedings that are already underway.
The U.S. consulate in Istanbul, likewise, must share information about past contacts between Metin Topuz, one of their employees who was recently placed under arrest by a Turkish court, and senior Gülenists including the former prosecutor Zekeriya Öz. Under the circumstances, it is difficult to understand why the United States would refuse to comply with information requests about coup suspects with Turkish authorities. One can't help but wonder why would Washington sit on its hands?
The truth tends to come out sooner or later. Washington's decision to withhold information from Turkey won't protect the coup plotters forever. It will only delay justice. When the truth comes to light, however, the United States will end up facing more public humiliation. Before things get out of hand and in light of the overwhelming evidence against Fetullah Gülen, the U.S. government must stop harboring a known terrorist and approve Turkey's request for his extradition to face justice.
Cooperating with Turkey now would not absolve Washington's sins, but Gülen's extradition would send a message to the Turkish people that the July 15 coup attempt was not in line with the U.S.'s official policy. If the United States fails to comply with Turkey's request, however, millions of Turks will continue to understandably raise questions about Washington's complicity in last summer's violent attack on their democracy.