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Kerry Promises to 'Immediately Evaluate' Extradition of Coup-Accused Scholar

President Obama and Recep Tayyip Erdogan, then prime minister of Turkey, arrive for their joint news conference in the Rose Garden of the White House on May 16, 2013. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)

Secretary of State John Kerry said this morning that the Obama administration is “open” to considering the extradition of a Poconos scholar accused by the Turkish regime of being behind Friday’s coup attempt.

Kerry said on NBC’s Meet the Press that the U.S. has asked President Recep Tayyip Erdogan not to become more authoritarian in response to the coup.

Hurriyet Daily News reported that Erdogan has detained some 6,000 soldiers, judges and prosecutors in less than 48 hours. They’re being charged with “membership of an armed terrorist organization” and “attempting to overthrow the government of the Turkish Republic using force and violence or attempting to completely or partially hinder its function.” Erdogan also wants to reinstate the death penalty now.

“We think it’s very important that he doesn’t [crack down on opponents], obviously. That would be a great challenge to his relationship to Europe, to NATO, and to all of us. And we have urged them not to reach out so far that they’re creating doubts about their commitment to the democratic process. And I hope it won’t result in that,” Kerry said.

Erdogan has been railing against Pennsylvania, home of 75-year-old exiled cleric Fethullah Gulen, whom he accuses of orchestrating the coup. “I have a message for Pennsylvania,” Erdogan said in a televised speech. “You have engaged in enough treason against this nation. If you dare, come back to your country.”

Gulen, who has quietly lived in Saylorsburg, Pa., for about a decade, quickly condemned the coup attempt, declaring in a statement that “government should be won through a process of free and fair elections, not force.”

“As someone who suffered under multiple military coups during the past five decades, it is especially insulting to be accused of having any link to such an attempt,” he said.

Kerry said he has “no knowledge” and “no evidence whatsoever at this point in time” that Gulen was involved in the coup as Erdogan charges.

“But I talked with my foreign minister counterpart three times in the last day, and I urged him to compile the evidence that they have as rapidly as possible, provide it directly to us through the channels, and I pledged to him that according to our extradition treaty, according to our legal process and standards, we will immediately evaluate whether or not that evidence is sufficient to merit an extradition,” he said.

“But they also have to make a formal request for extradition through the judicial process. They haven’t done that yet. And that has to be accompanied by evidence and by, you know, by demonstrated facts which would lead a court to approve the extradition itself.”

Kerry added: “But we’re open. We’re not blocking it. We’ve never had a formal request.”

On CNN, Kerry said Turkish officials “assure me that there will be no interruption of our counter-ISIL efforts,” though “it is a fact that there were difficulties at Incirlik” — including Turkey shutting off the power at the U.S. air base.

Regarding Gulen, he reiterated that Turkey’s demand “has to come with documentation for the request and go to the Justice Department.”

“And we will deal with it. I made it very, very clear to the foreign minister of Turkey yesterday, the United States is not harboring anybody. We’re not preventing anything from happening.”

Asked if anyone in the U.S. had an idea that the coup was coming, Kerry replied, “I don’t think anybody’s intelligence had information, particularly the Turkish intelligence. The answer is no.”

The secretary of State also stressed on NBC that “actually we’re making progress” against ISIS, but “when you have these spectacular events” like the attack Nice and the attempted coup in Turkey “it’s very difficult to measure.”

“We made significant progress on the ground. But there are fighters who have left Syria a year ago, two years ago, three years ago and there’s a process of radicalization that takes place so that one person in one place, as we saw in Orlando or as we just saw in Nice, France, has the ability to jump in a truck or go into a nightclub and unfortunately do terrible damage,” Kerry said on NBC. “That is extremely hard for law enforcement to deal with ahead of time unless there is intelligence regarding it.”

“So I believe those events actually are efforts by ISIL to try to prove relevance and to try to frighten people more, but I do think with respect to the fight against the leadership, we’ve taken 130 of their major leaders off the battlefield. We are making progress.”