The U.S. will decide whether to extradite Fetullah Gülen, the Gülenist Terrorist Group's (FETÖ) leader, to Turkey in connection with the 2016 assassination of the Russian ambassador in Ankara, a Justice Department spokesperson said.
Nicole Navas Oxman told Russia's Tass news agency in broad terms that they would "review any materials the Turkish government may provide in this regard."
The statement comes after Turkey issued arrest warrants for eight people, including Gülen and three others known residing in the United States, in connection with the murder of Andrey Karlov.
Karlov was shot dead on Dec. 19, 2016 by Mevlüt Mert Altıntaş, an off-duty policeman linked to FETÖ who was killed in an ensuing shootout with police. "(We) will make any decisions about extradition on the basis or the facts and relevant U.S. laws," Oxman added though the process may take longer than thought as Turkey still expects Washington to detain Gülen for leading the July 15, 2016 coup attempt.
A Turkish court presiding over the Karlov case has implicated Gülen, who has lived in the U.S. since 1999, Emre Uslu, a renowned figure of the terrorist group who fled to the U.S. before the coup attempt and Şerif Ali Tekalan, another senior FETÖ member who now presides over a university in the U.S.
Apart from standard terrorism charges, suspects are accused of homicide and will likely be sentenced to life imprisonment if found guilty. Media outlets reported that the investigation that is being closely watched by Moscow traced Altıntaş's connections to FETÖ's "imams." Imam is a term defining terrorist group's handlers responsible for its infiltrators in law enforcement, judiciary, the military etc.
Şerif Ali Tekalan, who fled to the United States while running a FETÖ-linked university in Istanbul, was found to have ties with Mustafa Timur, one of the organizers of the exhibition Karlov was attending at the time of his murder.
Emre Uslu, who is known for his notorious pro-FETÖ propaganda posts online, is accused of diverting attention from FETÖ's involvement in the case. Murat Tokay, another suspect in the case, was the "handler" of Altıntaş for FETÖ, according to the investigation. Prosecutors told the court that multiple pieces of evidence, from digital material in Altıntaş's possession to testimonies of suspects linked to FETÖ, pointed to his membership to the terrorist group and the murder was "committed to serve the interests of FETÖ." Authorities have already arrested nine suspects in connection with the murder, including three of Altıntaş's colleagues.
The United States, where the terrorist group runs a network of charter schools, is among the favorite safe havens for fugitive FETÖ members. Gülen himself lives in a posh retreat in Pennsylvania, in the company of senior figures of the terrorist group wanted by Turkey.