Friday, August 05, 2016

Why Turkey's Demanding Extradition Of Fethullah Gülen Is Frivolous Grandstanding

Kevin Snapp is a former federal court staff attorney and have worked on extradition cases. (JD 1982, University of Chicago) Snapp worked for the US District Court in Chicago between 1989 and 2005, assisting judges with, among other things, extradition cases. The following is his expert opinion over the Fethullah Gulen extradition case being posted as guest article on WashingtonPoint.

Why Turkey's Demanding Extradition Of Fethullah Gülen Is Frivolous Grandstanding 

By Kevin Snapp

On Tuesday, August 2, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan asserted in an interview on Italian television that Italy should be investigating the Mafia, not his son Bilal, and that the  investigation “could put Turkish-Italian relations in a difficult position.”  Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi promptly tweeted his riposte:  “In this country, judges follow the law and the Italian constitution, not the Turkish president. It's called 'the rule of law.'”

Although ordinarily I respect his cool-headedness and self-control, in hindsight I wish President Obama had been equally blunt in responding to President Erdoğan's demands that the US extradite Fethullah Gülen.  All of his demands, beginning in 2014 and vigorously renewed in the wake of the July 15 attempted coup, have been completely illegitimate and unfair.  Plainly stated, President Obama does not have the authority to order the deportation of Mr. Gülen, a lawful permanent resident, unless either his permanent residency is revoked for a lawful reason, such as being convicted of a serious crime, or a request for his extradition has been granted based on a showing that he has committed a serious crime in Turkey.  In either case, judicial and administrative procedures must be followed, Mr. Gülen's rights must be respected, and President Obama cannot determine the outcome.  

This is quite clear from the extradition treaty and American statutes.  It is surely known to the relevant staff in Turkey's Foreign Ministry, and given its importance, it is hard to believe it is not known to Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu, if not to President Erdoğan himself.  They certainly know that more than two years after then-Prime Minister Erdoğan declared Mr. Gülen to be the leader of a terrorist organization, Turkey has never submitted a request for his extradition.  American spokespersons have said diplomatically that no “formal request” for extradition has been received; according to a July 26 story in the Washington Post, Turkey will formally request his extradition after it has finished investigating the defeated coup plotters.  What neither Turkish officials nor the media seem to understand is that extradition is governed by treaty, and a “formal” request for extradition is the only kind of request there is.  Blustering demands by heads of state don't count.  

From an American legal perspective, Turkey's brazenness is mind-boggling.  In the last two weeks the President, Prime Minister and Foreign Minister of Turkey have repeatedly and publicly castigated the US for “harboring” Gülen, demanded his immediate extradition, insinuated that Gülen's continued presence in the US suggests complicity in the attempted coup, and warning that Turkish-American relations will depend on Gülen's extradition -- notwithstanding the fact that President Obama would violate his oath of office if he promised to extradite Gülen, and Turkey had not even taken the necessary first step to begin the extradition process!

The 1979 extradition treaty between the US and Turkey requires an extradition request to be made in writing through diplomatic channels.  For Mr. Gülen, who has not yet been convicted, the request must be accompanied by an arrest warrant, a statement of the facts of the case, the text of applicable Turkish laws defining the offense, prescribing the punishment, and the applicable statute of limitations.  All documents must be accompanied by certified English translations.

Critically, the request must also include evidence that, under US law, would justify Mr. Gülen's arrest and committal for trial if he had committed the offense in the US.  An arrest in the US requires “probable cause,” a phrase from the US Constitution understood to mean sufficient evidence to lead a reasonable person to believe the accused person committed the crime charged.  

When an extradition request is received, the State Department reviews it to identify potential foreign policy problems, ensure that there is an extradition treaty in force, that the crime or crimes are extraditable offenses, and that supporting documents are properly certified.  The request is then passed to the Justice Department's Office of International Affairs, which determines whether the attached documents will establish probable cause.  If not, the treaty provides that further evidence and information should be requested.  When the request is considered complete, it is forwarded to the US Attorney (federal prosecutor) in the judicial district where the suspect lives.

The US Attorney files the request with the federal district court and obtains a warrant for the suspect's arrest.  A hearing is held before a federal district judge or magistrate judge to determine whether the evidence is sufficient to extradite the suspect.  The US Attorney represents the country requesting extradition, and the suspect may have an attorney present and challenge the evidence offered.  If the judge determines the suspect is extraditable, he or she certifies that finding and returns the request, the associated documents, and any evidence received at the hearing to the Secretary of State, who makes the final extradition decision.  

As a consequence of this procedure, the President, through his executive authority over the State and Justice Departments, can prevent the extradition of a suspect, but lacking power over the judicial branch, he cannot compel a judge to permit extradition.  The President can offer the assistance of government attorneys to help Turkey prepare its case, but a judge will decide. 

Turkey and the US have a very serious misunderstanding concerning the process.  Turkey's government apparently believes that high Turkish officials talking with high US officials should settle matters.  According to HDN, quoting “Turkish media,” Turkish Chief of Staff General Hulusi Akar told visiting US General Joseph Dunford, “I am the evidence!”  According to Akar, while he was held captive one of the coupists, Brig. Gen. Hakan Evrim, offered to put him in touch with Gülen.  That satisfied Akar that Gülen was behind the coup, and the word of Turkey's top military man should justify extraditing Gülen to Turkey. 

America doesn't work that way.  The conciliatory tone of American officials and spokespersons may have done both parties a disservice by allowing Turkish officials to think it does.  Turkey has to accept that Gülen's extradition will depend on a federal prosecutor putting Turkey's evidence before a low-level, but independent, federal judge in Pennsylvania, with no shortcuts and no guarantees.  Turkey must also accept that if the judge finds him extraditable, Gülen will still have the right to file a petition for habeas corpus, and appeal the denial if it is denied. If he does, although he will remain in custody, he will remain in the US until the decision is final, and yes, it could take more than a year.  Foreign Minister Çavuşoğlu is simply wrong in saying that the US can extradite Gülen quickly if it wants to.  That is arrogant ignorance from someone who should know better -- and Turkey is hardly known for its speedy processing of criminal cases -- or he is deliberately maligning the US for popular effect.  Neither should be acceptable.  

Turkey wants the US to understand the trauma it has just gone through, and that in a state of emergency ordinary limitations on governmental power may be disregarded.  But Turkey must understand that the US is not living in a state of emergency, and will not suspend its laws because Turks very badly want to punish the man they are convinced caused a part of its military to commit mutiny and murder.  

It's called the rule of law, Mr. Erdoğan.

Thursday, August 04, 2016

US says it's "watching closely.. the scope of (Turkish) government’s crackdown"

Office of the Spokesperson

For Immediate Release
For your reference, please find attached an indexed DPB, which will be available here.  
DPB #137
Briefer: Mark Toner, Deputy Spokesperson

QUESTION:  Turkish media reporting the Secretary will go to Turkey later this month.  Is that true?
MR TONER:  Nothing to announce in that regard.

US is assessing whether received extradition request
QUESTION:  Could you tell us exactly where the U.S. is in the issue of the extradition process of Mr. Gulen?  As you may have seen, a Turkish court has issued what they call an international warrant against Mr. Gulen.  Do you see this as the former – formal, sorry, extradition request?
MR TONER:  So my understanding of where we are with the extradition request is that we’ve been – or that the Turkish authorities have delivered – I think made several deliveries of documents to us and that we’re in the process of going through those documents.  As you know, we don’t – and we’ve said this previously – we don’t speak publicly about the details of the extradition request process.  It’s not something that is necessarily an overnight process.  It takes time to evaluate the evidence that’s presented.
I think at this point – my understanding at least, having talked to my colleagues at the Department of Justice, is that they’re still trying to make a determination of whether the documents that were delivered to them do constitute what they believe is a formal extradition request.  And I realize there’s some – the rhetoric coming from Turkey is that they have made a formal request.  I think and I believe, in fact, that we’re still trying to assess that.

US: First extradition request was not qualified, looking into second
QUESTION:  So your position has not changed in two weeks?  You still don’t know if or you don’t say – you cannot say if it’s a formal --
MR TONER:  Right.  We’ve received – as I said, we’ve received documents.  We’re studying those documents.  And we talked about an initial tranche that we had received from them that did not, we believe, constitute a formal extradition request.  But we subsequently received more documents.  We’re looking through them, and I think they’re trying to figure out whether this is the full request.  And I don’t think they have reached that determination yet.

US: Unsure if any coup evidence tying to Gulen presented
QUESTION:  The second tranche of documents, does that involve evidence related to the coup itself?  Because the first one I think was based on investigations from before the coup.
MR TONER:  You are correct, I think, on the first thing.  In terms of the second tranche, I don’t know.  I think they’re still trying to assess whether that’s the case.  I don’t have a specific readout on what – whether those documents pertained specifically to Mr. Gulen’s involvement in or alleged --

QUESTION:  Well, I mean, is there any – have they supplied any evidence directly related to the coup?
MR TONER:  Yeah, I don’t know, honestly.

US: Not sure if we necessary share our assessment re Gulen's involvement
QUESTION:  After three weeks, do you have more of a understanding how the coup happened in Turkey, whether your own assessment, whether the documents from Turkey?  But your own assessment; do you think this Gulen movement or Fethullah Gulen have anything to do with the coup?
MR TONER:  I mean, it’s a fair question.  I’m not sure that we would necessarily share our assessment.  I think that – well, a couple things.  One is, as we’ve done from the very beginning, we condemn the failed coup in Turkey, and we also have rejected and continue to reject any attempt to overthrow the democratically elected government in Turkey.  We support that government wholeheartedly as a strong ally and partner in the region.
In terms of assessing who was behind the coup, I know the – we all know that Turkish authorities are looking at that very closely and investigating it.  That’s a matter for them to reach a conclusion about.  I don’t have any specific conclusions to draw at this point.

US: Emphasized the importance of upholding the democratic institutions
QUESTION:  While Turkish authorities are investigating this, shut down – Turkish authorities shut down hundreds of media organizations; about 66,000 people are sacked and about 20,000 people are arrested.  These numbers can be a little different. And President Erdogan today said this is only the tip of the iceberg; they just starting to – do you – how are you assessing so far Turkish Government’s action, whether you see them excessive actions, as was questioned here?
MR TONER:   So – and we’ve conveyed this publicly as well as privately in our conversations with our Turkish counterparts.  Indeed, as you said, the President spoke with President Erdogan shortly after the coup attempt, and Secretary Kerry has spoken with his counterpart, Foreign Minister Cavusoglu, several times as well.  And we made very clear we understand the need for them to go after the alleged perpetrators of this coup; but at the same time, we’ve emphasized the importance of upholding the democratic institutions and the rule of law that exists in Turkey and the importance of that to the Turkish people and to the integrity of Turkey’s democracy.

QUESTION:  But you see these moves as signs that a major purge is underway, maybe a major purge that cuts across all institutions and aspects of Turkish society?
MR TONER:  I mean, I think what I’ll – I’ll leave it at this.  I would say we’re watching developments there very closely, and we’re making very clear that the Turkish Government – again, while we understand the basis for its actions – that it also bears in mind that it must hold true to its democratic standards.

US involvement claims just absurd
QUESTION:  No, I just wanted to say that all – almost everybody in Turkey agrees or thinks that the United States had something to do with the coup.
MR TONER:  Well, and I – when he asked me about our conclusions, I didn’t want to offer that up there, but that’s completely absurd.  And I’m – we’re conscious of the fact that after an event like this there’s lots of conspiracy theories, lots of allegations tossed about, but the suggestion that the United States was in any way involved in the attempted overthrow of the government – the democratically elected government of a NATO ally, a major NATO ally, is just absurd.

US: Ask Henri Barkey if he is involved
QUESTION:  Today, New York Times ran an editorial and it was then – there is a question that it’s asking what to do with a vital ally that is veering far from democratic norms.  This is the one question.  And in same editorial, also it talks about the former State Department official, Henri Barkey.  And it says that evidence against Barkey – when the coup erupted in Turkey, he was on the Istanbul island holding a workshop for academics and made some phone calls.
My question is whether former official Henri Barkey has anything to do with the coup as far as --
MR TONER:  I’d have to ask you to contact him directly.  He’s a former official.  I don't know that he plays any official role.  I have no idea what his involvement may or may not have been.  I just don’t have any details on that.

US says it's "watching closely.. the scope of (Turkish) government’s crackdown"
QUESTION:  The first question, the question about the vital ally that’s veering far from democratic norms – what to do with such ally?
MR TONER:  Well, again, I think that there has been concern expressed by many organizations, by many leaders around the world about the scope of the Turkish Government’s efforts to go after the alleged perpetrators of this coup attempt.  We’re obviously watching it closely.  We’ve been consulting closely with our Turkish counterparts at every level, and indeed, General Dunford was just there this past week and met with his counterparts.
We want to continue, obviously, to cooperate closely with Turkey as a NATO ally and as a major counter-Daesh coalition partner.  We don’t want to see a disruption to those efforts, because frankly, ISIL/Daesh is as much a threat to Turkey as it is to Europe, as it is to the United States, as it is to the region.  So we all need to focus on the immediate goal of going after and maintaining the pressure on Daesh.  We’ve made tremendous progress, but we want to keep that pressure on.
But as to the extent or the scope of the government’s crackdown, if you will, after the coup, we’re watching it closely.  We’ve expressed our thoughts about it to our Turkish counterparts and we’re going to maintain that dialogue with them going forward.

Tuesday, August 02, 2016

US: We urged and encouraged our friend Turkey to observe the rule of law

DPB #135
Briefer: John Kirby, Spokesperson

Observe to rule of law
QUESTION: Turkey President Erdogan is now saying that Turkey’s friends are standing with terrorists and coup plotters. His government has now, it says, submitted a second document to the United States explaining why Gulen needs to be immediately arrested. And there’s a delegation of Turkish lawmakers in town visiting Justice, DHS, and over here. I’m wondering if you’ve got anything to respond to these comments, especially about that – if – essentially, they’re saying if the United States doesn’t hand over Gulen, then the United States is supporting terrorists and coup plotters and it could endanger the strategic alliance.
MR KIRBY: Well, look, I think, again, we very strongly condemn the failed coup. We’ve strongly rejected any attempt to overthrow democracy in Turkey. And we support, as we’ve said from the very beginning, the democratically elected government there. Turkey remains a NATO ally. They remain a key partner in the coalition to defeat Daesh. I think you saw that General Dunford, the Joint Chiefs chairman, was just recently there and had good, constructive meetings and came out of those meetings and publicly commented about the positive tone of those discussions. Incirlik remains open to U.S. aircraft to conduct strikes against Daesh in Syria and we look for that cooperation to continue.
We’re mindful that this was a serious coup attempt and that Turkey has put in place measures to investigate and to try to bring those responsible to account. All along, from the very beginning,
we’ve also urged and encouraged our friend Turkey, as they do this, to observe rule of law and to preserve confidence in their own democratic institutions. And we’re going to stay committed to that partnership going forward.
So I’ve seen lots of comments out there, and again, just like before, I’m not going to respond to every bit of rhetoric. But again, I can assure you that Turkey has no better friend than the United States. We want to see Turkey emerge from this strong and democratic and surefooted.

Erdogan slamming US
QUESTION: But you mentioned General Dunford’s visit and his comments and his message to the Turkish officials that he spoke with. you talked about how he spoke of a positive tone of these discussions, and yet less than a day afterwards, the president of the country not the joint not the Turkish joint chiefs chairman, not the Turkish prime minister, but the president of the country, the commander-in-chief makes these comments. Does that not dishearten you at all? I mean, is this message – this message that you guys are trying to send doesn’t seem to be getting through. Isn’t that a problem?
MR KIRBY: I can’t speak for President Erdogan or his comments. I can only speak for us and - -
QUESTION: I know. Aren’t you – and my so my question is: What are you not does this not dishearten you? Does it not make you annoy you or bother you that your good friend, ally, democratically elected President Erdogan that your send your Joint Chiefs of chairman of your Joint Chiefs of Staff over there to make nice with his people and to explain your position, and yet the next day, he comes out and trashes you again?
MR KIRBY: Well, look --
QUESTION: That’s not a problem?
MR KIRBY: Matt, what matters is the partnership that we have with Turkey going forward, and certainly in the practical, tangible ways that partnership can be realized such as going after Daesh in Syria and the support that we continue to get from Turkey in that regard.
President Erdogan, as the sovereign head of state of the Government of Turkey, is certainly free to express his views and his frustrations as he sees fit. We respect his right to do that. We’ve also been open and honest that even before the coup, we didn’t agree with Turkey on everything. So we’re going to stay committed to having the dialogue going forward, and that dialogue is happening. I mean, our ambassador, John Bass, is still working hard every day in Ankara to reach out to his counterparts and to talk about these developments as they go forward.

2nd Documents for Extradition
QUESTION: Do you know anything about the second document that was mentioned that the Turks have talked --
MR KIRBY: No, I have not heard about a second document. And again, I’d refer you to Justice Department on all questions about extradition.

QUESTION: But President Erdogan is going to Moscow in one week. Do you read anything in this visit?
MR KIRBY: You’d have to talk to President Erdogan about his travel habits and his plans. I don’t know. I mean, again, sovereign heads of state are – have every right and responsibility to conduct bilateral relations as they see fit.

QUESTION: President Erdogan is quoted, at least in our story, as saying, “I’m calling on the United States: what kind of strategic partners are we that you can still host someone whose extradition I have asked for?” Do you regard the – what you are aware of as so far having been transmitted by the Turks – I’m not asking about the second batch, if there was a second document. Do you regard that as an extradition request?
MR KIRBY: As I understand it – and now I’m getting into an area really that it’s not for the State Department to comment on. So I’m going to obviously refer you to Justice. But as I understand it, they are in receipt of documents. I do not know how many; I do not know in what number of batches they’ve come in, nor do I know the content. And as I understand it, they are still analyzing those documents, and I don’t believe that a judgment is made one way or the other yet in terms of whether it’s formal extradition. I do want to make two points -- 

QUESTION: Formal extradition request. 
MR KIRBY: Right.
MR KIRBY: Yes. A couple of points. It can be, as I said before, a lengthy legal process, the task of extradition. And as you know, we don’t typically make it a habit of speaking to specific cases. Now, this one was obviously unique, given the circumstances. It was unavoidable that we would have to address it, given the very public calls for it by the Government of Turkey. So we have had to do that. But I don’t want to set an expectation up that we’re going to be able to give you a blow-by-blow of the process as it works its way through.

QUESTION: Well, except that they keep yelling about it and talking about it in public, and if that forced you to talk about it the first time, I think it – you’re going to have to – you’re going to keep getting the question, whether you’re prepared to answer it or not.
MR KIRBY: No, I’m -- 

QUESTION: Anyone else has --
MR KIRBY: -- fully prepared – look, I know I’m going to get – continue to get the question. But again, it’s a process, and we’re going to try to preserve the sanctity of it. And while I understand that it’s going to keep coming up here, I just want to set the expectations as low as possible that I’m going to be able to provide a very detailed rundown every single day of the progress of it.
QUESTION: You succeeded.
QUESTION: Two very quick questions.
MR KIRBY: Yeah, you’re going to have to be real quick, because I got to get going.

QUESTION: Very quick. Today also President Erdogan said there has not been a single Western officials visited me after General Dunford. I was wondering if you have any visitors going to Turkey from U.S. Government any time soon.
MR KIRBY: I don’t have any other travel to speak to, other than the chairman’s trip --

QUESTION: And second very quick question is that it has almost been three weeks since the coup attempt, and you said that you want Turkey to observe the rule of law. Do you think so far Turkey’s action not --
MR KIRBY: I’ve also said I’m not going to characterize every action that they take. I’m not going to start doing that today. We our ambassador, John Bass, is working very closely with his counterparts in Ankara, talking through what the developments are and the decisions that the government is making. And I’m going to leave it there for today. 

Friday, July 29, 2016

US Spox: We still are deeply concerned by these reports

DPB #134
FRIDAY, JULY 29, 2016
Briefer: John Kirby, Spokesperson

Qs & As on Turkey 

QUESTION: Turkey? 
MR KIRBY: Go ahead.
QUESTION: A Turkish prosecutor prepared an indictment regarding the failed coup, and it says that the indictment says that the CIA and the FBI trained Gulen followers. This is not the first time Turkish officials are trying to tie the U.S. to the coup attempt. I know that you said that the accusations are ludicrous, but they are constant. I wonder, how does this constant flow of accusations affect cooperation between the U.S. and Turkey?
MR KIRBY: There’s no change in the cooperation with Turkey, particularly when it comes to their support for the counter-Daesh operations. As I think our military has spoken to, the operations at Incirlik have resumed to a normal level. So I’m not aware of any practical, tangible impact on our bilateral cooperation with respect to Daesh, but again, I would just say what I said yesterday: Any accusation, claim, allegation, or suspicion that the United States was in any way involved in this coup attempt is utterly false and inaccurate.

QUESTION: Sir, James Clapper said seemed to have said the opposite of what you just said. He said that the purge in the military is harming cooperation with Turkey, especially regarding operations against ISIL. He said many of our interlocutors have been purged or arrested, there’s no question this is going to set back and make more difficult cooperation with Turkey. Now, how serious is that? What you’re saying seems to be conflicting what he said.
MR KIRBY: Well, your question was has there been any impact, and my answer to that is no. To date, there’s been no impact on Turkey’s cooperation and membership and participation as a member of the coalition against Daesh. And I would also point you to what Turkish officials have said themselves to us bilaterally, but even publicly, that there’s not going to be any negative developments as a result of their efforts to investigate and get to the bottom of this coup on their willingness and ability to continue to support coalition operations. And again, thus far, there haven’t been.
I’m not in the predicting business and so I’m not going to engage in hypotheticals or speculation about where this goes forward. But thus far, as you and I are sitting here talking, there’s been no practical impact.

QUESTION: Turkey – in response to General Votel’s expressing concerns about the purge in the military, President Erdogan has just accused him of siding with coup plotters and said, quote/unquote, “Know your place.” Do you think Turkey has crossed the line in the friendship that you often talk about? And is there a line that Turkey can cross?
MR KIRBY: Well, again, I’ve seen those comments. I think you saw that General Votel himself put out a statement just not long ago making it clear that he wasn’t at all siding with coup plotters. As a matter of fact, as you know, our government has condemned that coup attempt very clearly and very consistently. And I’m also not going to react to every bit of rhetoric out there that seems to come every day. Turkey is a NATO ally, they are a friend, and they are a partner an important partner, especially in the efforts to counter Daesh in Syria. And that partnership continues. And they themselves have committed to continuing that partnership and that’s where our focus is going to be going forward.

QUESTION: That rhetoric seems to be having an impact on the ground in Turkey. Just earlier this week, thousands of people marched onto the Incirlik Air Base chanting anti-American slogans. Are you concerned about the safety of U.S. personnel in Turkey and the safety of nuclear weapons at the Incirlik Air Base?
MR KIRBY: I’m not going to speak to the latter one way or the other. As to the former, we are always concerned about the safety and security of U.S. personnel, be they military or civilian, certainly those that work inside our embassies and facilities. I mean, that’s something we’re always concerned about, and not long ago, a couple weeks ago, you and I, we were all talking about steps that we were taking to try to help better ensure that safety and security right inside Turkey because of the terrorist threat. Now, I’ve seen the reports of the protest activity. We – above so many others, we value freedom of expression and peaceful assembly, and the Turkish people have that right. That’s a democratic principle that’s enshrined in their own constitution. They have that right. And they have and they certainly have the right to express their views one way or another.
If you’re asking me, as a result of that protest, did that elevate our concerns, I’m not aware that it did. As far as I have seen, it was a peaceful assembly of people expressing their views and did not pose a threat to American personnel or our equipment or facilities.

QUESTION: But are you worried that the accusations and the rhetoric that Turkish officials are putting out there may incite violence against U.S. personnel in Turkey?
MR KIRBY: Well, I mean, we certainly don’t want to see any rhetoric enflame tensions or lead to or encourage violence. And I can assure you that we are in constant communication with Turkish authorities and have been since the coup attempt to talk to them about what they’re doing and how it’s going. Our ambassador remains engaged every day, but obviously, it’s not – we certainly wouldn’t want to see anything, be it through words or actions, that could put any innocent people in harm’s way – not just Americans, but any innocent individuals in Turkey in harm’s way. 

QUESTION: On Turkey, Turkish justice minister and foreign minister said that they have credible information that Gulen, who lives in Pennsylvania, may run away from U.S. I was wondering if you shared a similar concern.
MR KIRBY: I have no information one way or the other about that, and I’d – and that’s really not a matter for the State Department to speak to.

QUESTION: And I was also wondering if U.S. taking any security measures to make sure such thing will not happen.
MR KIRBY: Again, that is not a matter for the State Department to discuss. That’s really a matter for the Justice Department to speak to, and I won’t comment further on that.

QUESTION: Yeah, but in the extradition treaty – and I think it’s in Article 10 – it says in cases of urgency, if in this case, if Turkey gets suspected of such thing, U.S. needs to arrest the person for 90 days before the extradition. So it involves the State Department and the Justice Department, so I was wondering if any steps on the security of Gulen to make sure that he won’t run away is taken on --
MR KIRBY: I don’t have anything further to add to that. Those are questions that really should be directed to the Justice Department and law enforcement authorities. As I said, we are in receipt of some material. The Justice Department is still analyzing that material, and that and again, the whole process of extradition can be a fairly lengthy legal process, and we’re going to respect that process. Beyond that, I just don’t have anything more to say.
QUESTION: Follow-up from yesterday, I think. You were asked about 130 media organizations being shut down in Turkey, and you said that you are seeking to get more information about those shutdown media groups organizations. And today 20 of 21 journalists detained in recent days sent the prosecutor ask them to be arrested just today. So it seems like the journalist, most of them, will be arrested, it looks like. I was wondering if you have any comment on that.

MR KIRBY: We still are deeply concerned by these reports and we’re still trying to gather more information. As I said in my previous answer, our ambassador remains daily engaged with his counterparts, as you might think he would.
And again, let me just reiterate again that the United States supports freedom of expression around the world, and we have talked many, many times here in this room about our concerns over freedom of expression and of free press in Turkey. Those concerns remain today. And when any country makes a move to close down media outlets and restrict this universal value, it is of concern to us. And again, we continue to express that.

QUESTION: Turkey. 
QUESTION: I don’t know if you had a chance to look at the story about the so-called Traitors’ Cemetery outside Istanbul. According to our story, which is based which includes reference to local media reports as well, at least one Turkish military officer who is accused of involvement in the coup was buried in this cemetery, which, as I understand it, is marked Traitors’ Cemetery and by the government. And he was denied or was not given the normal religious rites that would accompany such a burial. Do you regard that as a violation of his or his family’s rights or religious freedom?
MR KIRBY: Well, look, obviously and we had a conference here in just the last couple of days about the importance of human rights, religious minorities and that was obviously for religious minorities. But I mean, freedom of expression, freedom of religion, freedom of worship remains a universal value that we obviously hold in very high regard. So broadly speaking, we always want to be able to see particularly in democracies we want to be able to see that those rights, that those freedoms are respected.
Now, I’ve seen a press report same as you, Arshad, and I’ve only seen a press report, and nothing beyond this article which I was able to read before coming down here. As I understand it in these very early minutes here after seeing this story that this was a municipal decision, and I think best right now to refer you to the Government of Turkey for more information about this particular decision which is, again, we understand at this early hour, was made at the municipal level.
We are, like you, trying to gain a little bit better clarity about this and what it actually means.

QUESTION: Can I just one follow-up. When following the killing of Usama bin Ladin, the U.S. Government made very clear that it had chosen to conduct his burial at sea in accordance with Muslim traditions. That was clearly a very deliberate decision even towards someone that the United States held responsible for the killing of 3,000 people on 9/11. Do you think that, as a general principle, people should be – if it is their or their family’s wish, should be – or even in
this case if it’s not – I mean, I doubt you consulted the bin Ladin family, although maybe you did do you think that people should be accorded the normal religious rituals?

MR KIRBY: To be laid to rest in accordance with their religious practices? 
MR KIRBY: Absolutely we do, sure. Sure we do. And you were right; that was a very sharp example but obviously a famous example of how we observe that ourselves. And of course, as a general principle, as I said, in keeping with our belief in the freedom of worship, we believe that individuals should be accorded those customs, those traditions, those rites, to be laid to rest in keeping with the same practices by which they worshiped when they were alive.

QUESTION: And then last one from me on Turkey. Turkish officials today, I believe, said that something like 50,000 people have been Turkish citizens have been deprived of their passports following the coup attempt. This is a broader question, but it goes to the fundamental question of and I know you guys have said, look, they deserve to be able to get to the bottom of this.
On the other hand, when thousands and thousands, or in this case, tens of thousands of people are being affected, for example, by losing their ability to travel outside the country, does that not raise concerns in the United States about Turkey’s ability over the long term to maintain a democratically run and cohesive society? Or do you see any risk that the elimination of or the dismissal of the academics and the incarceration of journalists and the dismissals of civil servants and judges and so on is going to rend the sort of fabric of the society and just make its divisions even deeper over time?
MR KIRBY: Well, we certainly don’t want to see that. As we’ve said many times, Turkey matters to us as a friend and an ally; their democracy matters to us. That is why we’ve been so forthright in recent weeks about press freedoms, for instance. So that is absolutely not an outcome that we would like to see.
But again, we note that this was a serious coup attempt that, though failed, was had a measure of organization to it and execution to it that would alarm any government so threatened. And we understand their need to try to get to the bottom of this and to try to figure out what happened and to be able to put in place measures so that it can’t happen again. I think any government would be in their rights to do that.
We’re watching this very closely, as we’ve said. We’ve also been very honest with our friends in Turkey about our concerns, about the importance of rule of law and due process, as they go about this investigation. I think we’re loathe to make a judgment or a characterization on each and every decision that’s being made, but I can assure you that we remain in close touch with our counterparts in Turkey as they are being made and as this process moves forward, and we’re going to stay committed to doing just that.

QUESTION: So it’s conceivable to you – I mean, I understand you don’t want to make judgment on each and every thing, but the way you’re talking, it sounds like it’s conceivable to you that it’s perfectly reasonable to pull 50,000 people – I mean, 50,000, that’s like a small city, certainly a very big town – that it’s conceivable, that it’s entirely within – reasonable to pull that many people’s passports as they’re investigating this.
MR KIRBY: That’s not what I said and I’m not making – again, I’m not going to make judgments or characterizations on each and every decision that they’re making. We have been very honest and candid about our concerns with respect to rule of law and due process. Those concerns remain as valid today as they did when we first expressed them, and we will continue to monitor events closely and to stay in close touch with Turkish counterparts. But I’m – as I have before, I’m going to avoid making either lump-sum characterizations or individual characterizations of each and every decision.

QUESTION: Just one question, a follow-up, if I may. You have been talking about these rights universal rights, fundamental rights but Turkey suspended European Convention of Human Rights. And so far, these days, the official authorities don’t need to even bring charges to detain anyone, which, right now, what’s going on, journalists are being detained without giving any reason or any evidence, and they stay at least 30 days because of state of emergency. So your citation or reference doesn’t really matter for Turkey, looks like.
MR KIRBY: Well, I think you’d have to ask Turkish officials that question. Nothing’s changed about our views. I don’t – but the decisions they’re making, they should speak to. 

Thursday, July 28, 2016

US is deeply concerned by the reports 130 media organizations are shut down

DPB # 133
Briefer: John Kirby, Spokesperson

Turkey Qs & As

QUESTION: Yes. A couple questions. Ambassador Bass is quoted by the Turkish media in a speech as saying that Gulen was responsible for the coup. So is that accurate? Also, Turkish Government officials are quoted, saying that if Gulen is not extradited it will have a serious impact on U.S.-Turkish relations. What is the response to that?
MR KIRBY: Well, first, the answer to your first question is no, he didn’t give a speech and he never said that. On the answer – in the answer to the second question, look, we’ve been very consistent here in everything we’ve said about Mr. Gulen and any potential for extradition, that that kind of a decision would have to be evidence-based; it would have to be properly processed the way it is supposed to in coordination between the State Department and the Justice Department. As I have indicated earlier, we are in receipt of some material, and that material is being analyzed right now. I don’t have an update for you, and I wouldn’t get ahead of what is and can be a fairly lengthy legal process.

QUESTION: Since your comment yesterday characterizing Turkey, we now have official confirmation that more than 130 Turkish media organizations have been shut down. Is that question was asked yesterday, I think, by Arshad or somebody. Do you still consider Turkey a democracy, considering the thousands of people in detention, tens of thousands of suspects, and the arrests of journalists and 130 to 150 media organizations being shut down?
MR KIRBY: Well, let me just address the media piece of that. We’re obviously deeply concerned by the reports and we’re seeking additional information from Turkish authorities. As you well know and as I’ve said many, many times from the podium, the United States supports freedom of expression around the world. And we have concerns when any country makes a move to close down media outlets and restrict this universal value. We expect Turkish authorities to uphold their assurances that the Turkish Government will protect the rule of law and fundamental freedoms.

QUESTION: The Turkish officials also suggesting that Erdogan, the Turkish president, wants to put the military under his direct control, not have it as a separate entity. Would the U.S. be supportive of such a move, which would require a change in the constitution, or does this raise more concerns about his ability to wield power and to control more facets of the Turkish Government?
MR KIRBY: We’ve talked at length, Ros, about what’s going on in Turkey. We’ve condemned the failed coup. We’ve made clear that we understand the Turkish Government has a right and a responsibility, quite frankly, to their citizens to get to the bottom of this, to investigate it, and to hold those responsible for the coup to account.
The President and Secretary Kerry have also, of course, stressed the importance to their Turkish counterparts of upholding democratic principles and the rule of law throughout this process. I’ve
said that I’m not going to make it a habit from this podium of responding and reacting to every single decision. We’ve seen this in press reporting same as you, and I would leave it to Turkish authorities to describe the motives behind it.
But obviously, Turkey matters to us as a friend and an ally. Their democracy matters to us. Their success as a democracy matters to us. And so as a friend and an ally, we’re going to continue to stay in close touch with Turkish authorities as they work through this.

QUESTION: Quick two questions on Turkey.
MR KIRBY: I’m guessing your question’s also on this.
QUESTION: Yes. Earlier, Turkish administration announced that they will send justice minister and interior minister here for the extradition process. Do you know if that visit is still happening, or --
MR KIRBY: I don’t have any updates on their – to give you, and I would point you to Turkish leaders to talk about their travel.

QUESTION: And the last one. There are still a lot of conspiracy theories or theories regarding U.S. involvement, despite the fact that --
MR KIRBY: About U.S. what?
QUESTION: U.S. involvement in the coup attempt. There are still a lot of stories every day, headlines in Turkey. Do you think that the government Turkish Government is doing to counter these messages, or do you think the why do you think these blames and accusations are still continuing?
MR KIRBY: Well, I couldn’t possibly begin to know the answer to that question. The people propagating the false rumors are the ones to ask. Obviously, we had no involvement in this, and any suggestion otherwise is ludicrous. But why such a rumor would still be propagated or still be able to find purchase over there, I couldn’t begin to guess. We are not only an ally to Turkey, we’re a friend, we’re a partner, and Turkey remains a member of the coalition to counter Daesh. And we value that partnership, and as we’ve said all along, we’re going to continue to look for ways to deepen and strengthen it going forward.

QUESTION: President Erdogan is going to Moscow next week, and there are a lot of opinion pieces and speculations that Turkey’s getting closer to Russia and there may be some tensions increasing between the U.S. and Turkey, as earlier question mentioned. Do you have any comment on Turkey’s getting closer to Russia, whether --
MR KIRBY: Look, I mean, as a sovereign nation, Turkey has every right to pursue bilateral relations that it believes are important and to improve and strengthen those bilateral relations that it chooses to improve and strengthen. So I’m not – we’re not in – wouldn’t be in a position to comment or qualify one way or another President Erdogan’s travel or his discussion with foreign leaders. That’s his right and responsibility; that’s the right and responsibility of a sovereign nation.
What matters to us is both a bilateral and multilateral relationship that we have with Turkey: multilateral through NATO, multilateral through the coalition to counter Daesh; and, of course, the bilateral relationship that we have. And look, we’ve been nothing but honest and open and forthright with you right here in this briefing room about issues and things that happen in Turkey that concern us. We’ve also been open, candid, and forthright with Turkish leaders about those same issues, as well as – and this often doesn’t get attention by you guys – but the all the many ways in which we see eye to eye with Turkey on many things and the things that we try to work together on and try to advance, and there’s a lot of those too. I understand that doesn’t make headlines, but it doesn’t mean that it isn’t happening, and it doesn’t mean that it isn’t happening even today as Turkey works through the aftermath of this coup, because operations against Daesh continue. Operations against Daesh out of Incirlik continue.
So there’s – as there always is in a consequential bilateral relationship like the one we have with Turkey, there is a wide menu, an agenda of issues, to talk with them about. That’s certainly no less true in fact, more true, I suppose, if you want to look at it that way, in the wake of this coup attempt. And that’s why Ambassador Bass is working so hard to continue the communication and the dialogue and to improve the mutual understanding that he has with his counterparts there in Ankara.

QUESTION: John, following up on that, there was a message put out by the U.S. consulate saying that there are protesters marching towards the Incirlik demanding that it be closed. Is there any concern about what appears to be a growing march of protesters?
MR KIRBY: I haven’t seen that report, Abbie, so I’m going to have to kind of go back and take a look at that. So without addressing a specific query about a protest march on Incirlik, let me just say that, again, we appreciate Turkish support for the coalition in terms of the use of the Incirlik Air Base for operations against Daesh in Syria. As I said, those operations continue, Turkish support continues, and Turkish leaders from President Erdogan right on down to the foreign minister in his conversations with Secretary Kerry made it very clear that there were not going to be negative developments in terms of those efforts as a result of this coup attempt. And with the exception of some temporary loss of power, which we talked about last week, they’ve been good to their word – that there hasn’t been a degradation in coalition use of Incirlik or Turkish support for that use of Incirlik against Daesh in Syria. So again, I just don’t know anything about this – the protests and I’d have to go find a little bit more out for you before I could answer specifically a question about that.