By Esra Kaymak Avci
As the U.S. requests evidence from Turkey in order to extradite Fetullah Gulen, experts tell Anadolu Agency that Washington has inconsistent policies and pointed to a strikingly similar case.
More than a week after a small rogue group within the Turkish army tried to overthrow the democratically elected government in Ankara, authorities there are still seeking concrete action from Washington to send the U.S.-based preacher back to Turkey to stand trial.
The U.S. has insisted it requires proof from Turkey in order for Gulen to be extradited and says the "allegations" need to be handled through a process established in a treaty signed in 1979 between the two nations.
Anadolu Agency asked experts to compare the current situation between the U.S. and Turkey circumstances following the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks, when the U.S. demanded the Taliban hand over Osama bin Laden, who the U.S. alleged orchestrated the attacks.
Within hours of the attacks on U.S. soil, the U.S. fingered bin Laden as being the mastermind. The then-Afghan ambassador to Pakistan, Mullah Abdul Salam Zaeef, said the Taliban was ready to place bin Laden on trial if the Americans could "prove their allegations".
The U.S. infamously turned a deaf ear to those requests and began bombing Afghanistan less than a month after it was attacked in New York and Washington.
The demand for evidence by Afghanistan is the same now being made by the U.S. to Turkey's before it delivers Gulen.
"The U.S. demanded that the Taliban hand over bin Laden, but as far as I know they did not propose a concrete plan," Dr. Barnett Rubin, a senior fellow at the Center on International Cooperation at New York University, told Anadolu Agency.
"Of course much of it was obvious because the hijackers were known associates of bin Laden, and bin Laden had a clear prior record of terrorism against the U.S."
Rubin says he does not know what evidence the U.S. government had or did not have for pointing the finger at bin Laden for the 9/11 attacks although there was evidence linking him to the previous bombing of the U.S. embassies in east Africa in 1998.
"I believe that there were court cases against the embassy bombers that linked them back to bin Laden and al-Qaeda," he said.
According to Rubin, the U.S. evidence that the al-Qaeda leader was behind the attacks -- if there was any -- might also have been based on "covert info".
"If it was intelligence, they would not have shared it except in a very stripped down form," he said.
In Gulen’s case, however, Washington is not the one making demands, but is under pressure to hand over a terror leader who is threatening the national security of a nation.
Last week, Ankara filed extradition documents with the U.S. calling for Gulen to be returned to Turkey to face charges that he heads the Fetullah Terrorist Organization, or FETO, behind July 15 failed coup that martyred least 246 people.
Although Turkey has records of Gulen's links to previous terrorist acts, the U.S. insists on the need to see evidence in a written extradition request -- an apparent double standard.
Since 2014, judicial processes in Turkey over Gulen's links to crimes have taken place but as the decision process takes time, the cases have not been completed. Therefore, Turkey could not take further international action as the cases were not closed yet.
In addition to its several crimes for many years in Turkey, the organization was designated an "armed terror group" in the latest court filing relating to the July 15 coup attempt.
The coup attempt was the first time FETO used arms.
Previously, the organization committed crimes such as "aggravated fraud", "forgery of official documents" and "eavesdropping and recording of conversations between persons", according to Turkish authorities.
Former Commonwealth Scholar at Cambridge College in the U.K. Binoy Kampmark told Anadolu Agency that it did not matter to the U.S. what evidence existed about bin Laden because there was an "advanced understanding that Washington was going to get him".
"The 'doctrine of terror' was entirely pre-emptive, and did not depend on solid evidence linking bin Laden with the Taliban," he said, describing American policies after the 9/11 attacks under the George W. Bush administration.
Those included the U.S. exerting the right to protect itself against countries that harbored or helped terrorists or groups, including using pre-emptive strikes -- the so-called Bush doctrine.
"They wanted bin Laden, and were willing to fudge matters if need be,” according to the RMIT University lecturer.
Kampmark added that "the link with evidence and security" was worth nothing either to the U.S. while treating Iraq's Saddam Hussein.
Experts stressed that the U.S. applies a double standard to extradition, depending on what side it finds itself on.
Although the U.S. said it was sure bin Laden was behind the attacks on 9/11, there still are some unanswered questions about whether Washington provided any proof to support its claims.
It now insists on protecting Gulen and not returning him to Turkey unless "evidence" is provided.
Earlier last week, Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim said his government has "no doubt on the source of this coup attempt" and asked the U.S. whether it looked for evidence for the perpetrator of 9/11 attacks in the very first moments as it was demanding Osama bin Laden be handed over.
A State Department spokesman said in response that the U.S. at the time was "certain" and had "evidence" about who was behind the attacks.
The U.S. has acknowledged receipt of the online version of the extradition request from Turkey and said it was reviewing whether it was a formal one.
State Department deputy spokesperson Mark Toner said that any decision would not be "driven by political motivation, not driven by emotion, but based on the evidence we receive we will make determination as to the extradition."