The denaturalization of Fetullah Gülen, the leader of Gülenist Terror Group (FETÖ), would be an obstacle for his extradition from the U.S., Justice Minister Bekir Bozdağ said yesterday.
According to a government decision, officially published on Monday, Turkey will revoke the citizenship of 130 individuals if they do not return to Turkey and face charges against them within three months. The Interior Ministry's list also included Fetullah Gülen, who is accused of leading the July 2016 defeated coup where 250 people were killed.
Speaking to reporters at Parliament in the capital Ankara, Bozdağ said, "Turkey's right to try (Gülen) is reserved under all circumstances and dismissal of this right is out of question. It (the loss of Gulen's citizenship) is not an obstacle to his extradition and provisional arrest."
He said Turkey would not give up on its quest to extradite Gülen from the U.S.
"The main agenda of Turkey-U.S. relations is now the provisional arrest of the FETÖ leader and his return to Turkey," the minister added. "We will bring the FETÖ leader back to Turkey sooner or later and put him on trial."
Gülen has been charged by Turkish prosecutors with forming an armed terrorist organization as well as with orchestrating the foiled coup. Gülen and his FETO network are accused of being behind a long-running campaign to overthrow the state through the infiltration of Turkish institutions, particularly the military, police, and judiciary.
It is highly unlikely that Fetullah Gülen, who has been living in Pennsylvania since 1991 when he traveled there for "treatment," will return to Turkey to testify in trials where he faces multiple life sentences.
The removal of citizenship from those involved in acts of terrorism has been a hotly debated issue in Turkey, especially following a wave of deadly attacks by the PKK in the past two years. The government had not pressed forward on the issue, but following last year's coup attempt, the matter was brought up again in the media.
The move comes amid Turkey's effort to round up suspects, loyal to the terrorist group accused of masterminding last year's coup attempt that left 250 people dead.
A large number, mostly senior figures of FETÖ, are believed to have fled abroad immediately after the coup attempt or shortly before it happened.