WASHINGTON / NEW YORK
The Turkish government told the U.S. authorities on Jan. 26 that it canceled the passport of U.S.-based preacher Fethullah Gulen for providing false statement, Turkish Foreign Ministry spokesperson said Tuesday.
“Turkish foreign minister informed the U.S. officials about the decision to cancel the passport,” Tanju Bilgic said at a weekly press briefing in Ankara.
American experts are of the opinion that if a similar situation of providing false information occurred during Gulen’s American green card process, then procedures could also be launched in the U.S. to take that card away from him and deport him to Turkey.
Gulen used a green Turkish passport to travel to the U.S. in 1999 in March. Such green passports are usually given to government officials like members of parliament and army officials.
On Jan. 26, the governor's office of the southeastern province of Erzurum -- Gulen's hometown -- nullified his green passport because of alleged inaccurate information he provided in 1990.
When Turkish authorities canceled Gulen’s green passport, he reportedly did not demand a renewal of his travel document.
Michelle Estlund, an expert attorney on Interpol’s red notices, told The Anadolu Agency that if someone has an American green card and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security believed it was based on a false statement, then a process to retrieve the card could be initiated.
Efe Poturoglu, another attorney on migration, said the U.S. government had the right to take green cards back, but it needed an investigation first.
"Giving a false statement to the Turkish government for obtaining a passport will not automatically start a process for taking the green card back," Poturoglu said, adding that the officials generally investigated whether there was a false statement in the application for green card.
Anis Saleh, a professional attorney who is an expert on migration, said if someone lied to Turkish officials and entered a country with this passport and then applied for the green card with his or her name and information, this alone would not be enough to deport such a person.
However, Saleh said, if someone also cheated during application for a green card, then the U.S. government could launch a deportation process. "If he committed a crime and is a member of a terrorist organization, then he can be deported," he added.
If a person lived legally in the U.S., he can’t be extradited or deported without a court decision, Saleh added.
Interpol notices only inform member countries about the suspects and the importance attached to such notices is related to the agreements between two countries.
Frank Rubino, an expert on federal and international crime cases, confirmed this aspect of the case, saying that Interpol notices were just for information and did not necessarily mean an extradition. Rubino said the important thing was the content of the agreement between two countries in such processes.
The country demanding the extradition must send evidence of the crimes committed by the wanted person, Rubino said, adding that the U.S. officials then evaluate the Interpol notices according to the bilateral agreements.
Also, a person living in the U.S. or a green card holder was not given any privilege in such extradition requests, the expert added.
Moreover, Estlund said, that if the U.S. Department of Justice learned that a person wanted by Interpol was living in the U.S., then it could decide to issue an arrest warrant. He said a prosecutor would be appointed if the decision to arrest was found appropriate. If the demanding country proved the wanted person was involved in terrorist acts, then this person could be extradited or deported, he added.
Extradition possible without Interpol
Attorney Douglas McNabb, a legal expert in extradition, said Turkey did not necessarily need Interpol’s red notice for Gulen’s extradition.
McNabb said Turkey could instead prepare a temporary arrest warrant and bring the issue to the notice of the U.S. diplomatic channels, specifically the Secretary of State via the Turkish Embassy in Washington.
If the State Department then confirmed that in fact there was a valid extradition treaty between the U.S. and Turkey, then it would then be sent over to the U.S. Department of Justice and in particular the Office of International Affairs.
He said the office would then review the request and could forward it to the U.S. attorney’s office for the district of the area in which the individual lived.
McNabb further said that the case would then be assigned to an assistant U.S. attorney.
"Either FBI or Marshals Service would then be given a copy of the arrest warrant, or then he would be arrested, and taken before the U.S. federal magistrate judge. He would be told that he is being arrested based on charges out of Turkey," he said.
He emphasized that the suspect would not be entitled to a bond hearing for a possible bail, because extradition proceedings in the U.S. were not treated as criminal cases.
"And then Turkey would be notified that he has been arrested. And Turkey would have up to 60 days to formally file a prepared petition for extradition. That would be sent over to the U.S. and he would have his extradition hearing," he said.
According to the Treaty on Extradition and Mutual Assistance in Criminal Matters between the United States of America and the Republic of Turkey, the maximum period of temporary arrest is 60 days. The detailed documents for extradition, including an extradition requisition, must be delivered to the Justice Department within that period.
In the extradition hearing, McNabb said the suspect would have the right either to agree to return to Turkey to stand trial and not fight the extradition case, or he could fight the extradition case.
"And then the decision would be made at the end of the hearing whether he should be extradited or not," he added.
McNabb added that if the suspect lost the extradition case and if the judge determined that he should be extradited, then that person would have no right to appeal the case.
"However he could file a 'habeas corpus' before the district court judge and if he were released there he could appeal to the court of appeals," he said.
State Department to make the final decision
The U.S. Secretary of State is the authority of last resort as to whether someone should be extradited, and Gulen could theoretically apply to the State Department if he loses all his appeals, McNabb said.
"He has the right to put forth arguments before the U.S. Secretary of State as to why he should not be extradited. And these arguments can be something different from what was argued in the court case. But ultimately, the Secretary of State’s office is the one who makes the decision whether one should be extradited or not. That’s the process."
An Istanbul court issued an arrest warrant for Gulen as part of a probe into "parallel state" operation in December 2014, which would pave the way for Turkish authorities to demand a search for Gulen through Interpol’s red notice.
Gulen has been in the U.S. since leaving Turkey in 1999 for “medical reasons.” Shortly after his departure, Turkish prosecutors opened a case against him for incitement to attacking the secular state. He was acquitted in 2008.
The current Turkish government accuses the Gulen movement of forming an illegal foreign-linked "state within the state," mainly within the police and the judiciary, which eavesdropped on thousands of people and sought to target the government.