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Erdogan Proposes Release of US Pastor Brunson in Exchange for Gulen Extradition

© REUTERS / Charles MostollerUS based cleric Fethullah Gulen at his home in Saylorsburg, Pennsylvania
US based cleric Fethullah Gulen at his home in Saylorsburg, Pennsylvania - Sputnik International
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan called on the United States on Thursday to extradite cleric Fethullah Gulen, who Ankara believes was the mastermind of the 2016 failed coup attempt, in exchange for the release of US pastor Andrew Brunson, who has been in jail in Turkey since October 2016.

ANKARA (Sputnik) — In May, US President Donald Trump asked Erdogan to release Brunson, who had been detained and arrested on charges of threat to national security during mass arrests following the thwarted coup.

"We have sent to you all the documents necessary for the extradition of Gulen. But you say, ‘give us the pastor [Brunson].’ You have another pastor in your hands, who lives in Pennsylvania [Gulen]. Give us that pastor and we will do what we can within our judiciary to give you this one," Erdogan said in a speech at a police academy in Ankara.

It is easier for the US side to extradite Gulen than for Ankara to extradite Brunson, because of the ongoing investigation by the Turkish authorities against the latter, Erdogan added.

Turkish police helicopter (File) - Sputnik International
Ankara Authorizes Detention of 63 Suspects Over Alleged Links With Gulen

Erdogan demanded Gulen's extradition from the United States after the failed coup attempt of July 15, 2016, which had left over 240 people killed and an estimated 2,000 wounded. Since then, Ankara has sent several packages of documents to Washington to support the request. Media reported citing US officials in August 2016, that Turkish evidence about Gulen was not related to the coup.

In September 2016, Gulen, who had denied his involvement in the failed government takeover, said that he would return to Turkey from the United States, where he had been living since 1999, to face trial if Washington approved his extradition, noting, however, that Ankara had not submitted any evidence of his alleged role in the failed coup.

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