In the aftermath of the July 15, 2016 coup attempt, Turkey has sped up the extradition processes for members of the Gülenist Terror Group (FETÖ) abroad. Justice Minister Abdülhamit Gül announced that they were seeking the extraditions of 419 members and senior figures of the terrorist group from various countries so far.
FETÖ is accused of using its infiltrators in the military for the 2016 coup attempt that killed 251 people. An unknown number of Gülenists, mostly high-ranking figures, fled Turkey when the coup attempt was thwarted. A large number of Gülenists had already left the country prior to the coup attempt after Turkish prosecutors launched investigations into other crimes of the terrorist group.
Speaking to Anadolu Agency (AA) on Friday, Gül said Turkey has also requested red notices or international detention warrants for a number of FETÖ members whose whereabouts are not known.
The United States, where FETÖ's fugitive leader Fetullah Gülen resides, is the target of most extradition requests. Turkey has sent seven extradition requests for Gülen to Washington but has seen little progress in his extradition. The justice minister said requests and evidence sent to the United States that justify extradition - including fresh evidence sent after the coup attempt - complied with bilateral agreements between the two countries on the extraditions of the suspects. "There are requests waiting at U.S. Department of Justice and we expect them to be processed as soon as possible and for them to launch a judicial process for extraditions," Gül stated.
Turkey has so far brought back at least 80 members of FETÖ from 18 countries in its global manhunt, which has ranged from Kosovo to Malaysia.
Media reports said the country has so far identified some 4,600 suspected members of the group around the world. Turkish courts also sporadically issue arrest warrants for FETÖ members abroad. Ankara has long complained of reluctance from European countries and the U.S. to cooperate in the fight against FETÖ. FETÖ suspects mostly live in the U.S., Germany and Canada. A majority of Turkey's allies in Africa and Asia have shut down FETÖ-linked schools and have already extradited wanted suspects.
In related news, Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu, who was on a working visit to Albania on Friday, said they expected the Balkan country to extradite FETÖ suspects there. "We formally requested their extraditions and expect our friend, Albania, to extradite them," Çavuşoğlu said at a joint press conference with his Albanian counterpart Ditmir Bushati. "We are party to international agreements for the extradition of criminals, and we are following the [extradition] cases through diplomatic channels," he said. The minister praised Albania's strong solidarity with Turkey after the 2016 coup attempt but added that there was still "a serious FETÖ structure" in Albania, noting that the terrorist group also posed a danger for Albania. The terrorist group maintains a worldwide network of schools and companies. In an interview with AA last year, the Turkish ambassador in Tirana, Murat Ahmet Yörük, said the group had the strongest network in Albania among all Balkan countries and operated 12 schools in the country. FETÖ, which posed as a charity with religious undertones for years, is known for its extensive international network of schools and companies.
Following the coup attempt, tens of thousands of people were detained or arrested for suspected links to the terrorist group. Security forces launch almost daily operations to hunt down suspects who managed to disguise their ties to the group. Investigations into ByLock, an encrypted messaging app developed and exclusively used by FETÖ members reveal more suspects linked to the group. On Friday, 13 suspects out of 40 wanted for using ByLock were captured in operations in 10 provinces after the Chief Prosecutor's Office in Istanbul issued detention warrants for them.