Turkey denies report of a $15 million plot to deliver wanted cleric

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michael flynn
Former
National Security Adviser Michael Flynn at the White
House.

AP Photo/Carolyn
Kaster


  • Turkey is dismissing a report that Turkish officials
    discussed a plot to have a US-based Muslim cleric
    kidnapped.
  • The plot is said to have involved Michael Flynn, the
    former US National Security Adviser who is under the
    scrutiny of special counsel Robert Mueller.
  • Turkey blames the cleric for a 2016 military coup
    attempt.

ISTANBUL (AP) — Turkey has dismissed as
“utterly false, ludicrous and groundless” a report that Turkish
officials may have discussed paying millions of dollars to have a
U.S.-based Muslim cleric kidnapped.

The Wall Street Journal reported Friday that Special Counsel
Robert Mueller was investigating an alleged plot involving former
U.S. National Security Adviser Michael Flynn and his son to hand
Fethullah Gulen over to Ankara for as much as $15 million.

Turkey blames the cleric and his supporters for a July 2016
military coup attempt that killed 250 people. Gulen, who lives in
Pennsylvania, has denied being behind it.

The Turkish Embassy in Washington reiterated demands late
Saturday for the United States to extradite Gulen so he can stand
trial. The embassy in a statement rejected “all allegations that
Turkey would resort to means external to the
rule of law” to get Gulen back on Turkish soil.

Flynn’s lawyers also have disputed the Journal report saying
Mueller was looking into a meeting where Flynn allegedly
discussed a plan that would pay him and his son “to forcibly
remove” Gulen.

Flynn, a retired lieutenant general, did lobbying work for Turkey
last year.

“Out of respect for the process of the various investigations
regarding the 2016 campaign, we have intentionally avoided
responding to every rumor or allegation,” the lawyers said in a
statement.

“But today’s news cycle has brought allegations about General
Flynn, ranging from kidnapping to bribery, that are so
outrageous and prejudicial that we are making an exception to our
usual rule: they are false,” they said. .

Michael Flynn Jr.’s attorney declined to comment on the
allegations.

Gulen has been living in the U.S. for nearly two decades. He is a
former ally of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan until their
2013 public falling-out led the government to declare Gulen’s
network a terror group.

Nearly 50,000 people are behind bars in Turkey and more than
100,000 civil servants have been dismissed from their jobs for
alleged links to the cleric’s network in the government’s
crackdown after the failed coup.

Also behind bars in Turkey for alleged links to Gulen is U.S.
pastor Andrew Brunson, who has lived in Turkey for over 20 years.
Erdogan said in September the U.S. was pressing Turkey to return
a “cleric” while refusing to hand over another “cleric.”

The Turkish Embassy said the Turkish people find Gulen’s
continued refuge in the U.S. “perplexing and deeply frustrating.”

Complicating relations further is the case of a Turkish-Iranian
businessman on trial in the U.S. for evading U.S. sanctions on
Iran. A former Turkish economy minister and an executive of a
state-owned Turkish bank have also been indicted.

In a meeting last week, Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim
and U.S. Vice President Michael Pence discussed the cases among
other sources of strain, including the U.S. backing of Syrian
Kurdish militants in the war against the Islamic State group.

Turkey has been infuriated by the U.S. support for a group it
considers an extension of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party
or PKK, which has waged an insurgency within Turkey for more than
30 years.



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