WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Turkey has handed over to the U.S. Justice Department further documents to back its request for the extradition of U.S.-based Muslim cleric Fethullah Gulen, who Ankara accuses of orchestrating a failed July 15 coup attempt, Turkey’s justice minister said on Thursday.
Justice Minister Bekir Bozdag said that in a meeting with Attorney General Loretta Lynch in Washington on Wednesday he gave U.S. authorities three new folders of evidence they had sought over Turkey’s accusations against Gulen.
Bozdag described his meeting with Lynch as “fruitful,” saying it helped the two sides better understand each other’s positions. But he told reporters Lynch expressed neither support nor opposition for Turkey’s request that the United States extradite Gulen.
The Turkish cleric, who has lived in self-imposed exile in Pennsylvania since 1999, has denied involvement in the coup attempt.
Turkey is a critical ally of the United States in its fight against Islamic State militants in Iraq and Syria.
Turkey’s presidential spokesman said earlier this month that the United States does not appear to have understood the seriousness of Turkey’s call to extradite Gulen.
The Justice Department said in a statement that Bozdag and Lynch discussed that in both Turkey and the United States “extraditions are subject to the judicial process, and accordingly must meet the evidentiary standards of the requested country.”
Bozdag said the folders he gave Lynch contained information and documents that U.S. officials had requested when visiting Turkey in August. He declined to elaborate. The Justice Department also declined to comment on the material Bozdag said he provided.
The Justice Department has not taken any steps to initiate extradition proceedings against Gulen based on the information that Turkey has provided so far. Turkey has criticized the United States for not moving faster on the matter.
Turkey has arrested more than 35,000 people, detained thousands more and sacked over 100,000 people over what it says are links with Gulen since the coup attempt.
Bozdag said at Thursday’s press conference that the purge was “not 100 percent over.”
He added that Turkey has “zero tolerance” toward torture, denying a recent Human Rights Watch report that alleges Turkey’s security services have tortured people who were detained after the coup attempt.
Reporting by Julia Harte; editing by Matt Spetalnick and Chizu Nomiyama
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