Turkey's government has reportedly submitted a formal request to the United States to extradite Islamic cleric and leader of the Hizmet movement, Fethullah Gulen, following the failed coup in the country on 15 July (2016).
The US State Department confirmed a request had been received for Gulen, 75, who lives in Pennsylvania, but said it was not directly related to the coup attempt. US Secretary of State Mark Toner told a press briefing that the extradition request was being considered.
"We can confirm now that Turkey has requested the extradition of Gulen," said Toner, although he did not elaborate on why the request did not link Gulen to the coup attempt. Gulen has denied involvement in the coup attempt, which left around 270 dead.
US and Turkish officials have met ahead of the visit by Vice-President Joe Biden to Ankara on Wednesday (24 August) where he will attempt to patch up relations between the two countries. Turkey has accused the West of being more concerned about the civil liberties of detained or sacked officials than victims of the coup attempt.
President Erdogan made a statement at a recent rally, in which he demanded: "I call on the United States and President Barack Obama: Dear Mr President, I told you this before, either arrest Fethullah Gulenor or return him to Turkey. You didn't listen. Now after this coup attempt I call on you again. Hand over the person in Pennsylvania [Gulen] to Turkey," reports al-Monitor.
As relations between the two Nato allies soured, Erdogan visited Moscow to discuss with Russia's President Putin how to end the conflict in Syria, just months after Turkey shot down a Russian jet.
However the US has refused to make any promises about the fate of Gulen, with Toner saying: "We are now considering the merits of the request," reports Atlantic.