US says Turkish extradition request for Fethullah Gulen 'doesn't relate' to attempted coup

Joe Biden is visiting Ankara today, and is expected to discuss the request with officials

US says Turkish extradition request for Fethullah Gulen 'doesn't relate' to attempted coup

Turkish Islamic preacher Fethullah Gulen is pictured at his residence in Saylorsburg, Pennsylvania | Image: Selahattin Sevi / AP/Press Association Images

The US has confirmed it has received a request from Turkey for the extradition of cleric Fethullah Gulen - but not in relation to the failed coup attempt in Turkey last month.

Turkey's justice minister has previously warned the US will "sacrifice relations" unless it extradites Pennsylvania-based Mr Gulen, blamed by Ankara for the coup attempt.

Mr Gulen (75) is the leader of the Hizmet (Service) movement, which has an influential presence across Turkish society - from the military to the media.

Mr Gulen moved to the United States in 1999, but Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has repeatedly accused the preacher of trying to overthrow his government.

Mark Toner, deputy spokesperson for the US State Department, yesterday told reporters: "We can confirm now that Turkey has requested the extradition of Mr Gulen, but I wouldn’t characterize the request as relating to the coup attempt.

"In fact, they don’t relate to the 2016 attempted coup. I don’t have other further details to provide other than that," he added.

It comes as US Vice President Joe Biden arrives in Ankara as part of a trip to Latvia, Turkey and Sweden.

Mr Biden is due to meet with Mr Erdogan and Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim "to discuss the US-Turkey relationship and a range of issues of importance to both nations".

Syria is expected to top the agenda, as the Turkish military continues to focus on Islamic State targets in Syria.

The Hurriyet Daily News reports that officials will discuss the request for the extradition of Mr Gulen with Mr Biden.

He will also visit parts of the Turkish parliament buildings that were hit by bomb attacks during last month's coup attempt.