Muslim Times(Web Desk) – A group of pro-government attorneys in Turkey has petitioned a court to arrest nearly a dozen of American officers at the strategic Incirlik Air Base over alleged ties to US-based opposition figure Fethullah Gulen, whom the Turkish government accuses of having masterminded a failed coup attempt in 2016.
Lawyers with the legal Association for Social Justice and Aid, an NGO that includes prominent supporters of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, filed the petition with the Adana Chief Public Prosecutor’s Office last week, media reported on Wednesday.
They asked in their petition for the arrest of “the commanders of the US Air Force who are the superiors of the soldiers based at Incirlik” — identified with their full names in the 60-page criminal complaint — for their alleged attempts to “destroy the constitutional order, prevent partially or fully the Turkish government from exercising its authority and endangering the sovereignty of Turkish state.”
The group also called on Ankara to halt the US military flights from the base and execute a search warrant at the facility to look for potential additional evidence.
The Turkish government has not acted on any of the allegations.
The US Air Force said it was aware of the legal petition but referred all questions to the Turkish government for comment.
“We continue to carry out our mission here at Incirlik Air Base, and we are proud of the relationship we have with our Turkish military partners,” said Air Force Capt. Amanda Herman, spokeswoman for the base, on Wednesday.
Gulen has strongly rejected any involvement in the botched putsch against Erdogan. Ankara has labeled his transnational religious and social movement, Gulen Hareketi, “the Fethullah Terrorist Organization (FETO).”
The Turkish government has so far submitted several requests to US officials concerning the extradition of the 77-year-old cleric, but all to no avail. Washington argues that it has not yet received any sufficient evidence, required by US courts, to extradite Gulen.
Tens of thousands of people have been arrested in Turkey on suspicion of having links to Gulen and the failed coup. More than 110,000 others, including military staff, civil servants and journalists, have been sacked or suspended from work over the same accusations.
Some observers have speculated that the legal petition has likely been filed in response to the US imposing economic sanctions on Turkey’s Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu and Justice Minister Abdulhamit Gul for their alleged roles in the detention of American pastor Andrew Brunson.
Brunson has been jailed in Turkey for two years and is currently kept under house arrest over purported links to Gulen.
Turkey had previously vowed to respond to the imposition of sanctions on its two ministers.
Fellow NATO member Turkey and the US have been at loggerheads over a range of issues.
Ankara is infuriated by the US arms support for and the training of Kurdish militants in Syria, who are seen by Turkey as an extension of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), itself an armed group fighting for independence in southern Turkey.
The two countries also halted issuing visas for months last year over a dispute following the detention of two locally-employed US consulate staffers in Turkey on suspicion of having links to the coup attempt.
Following the failed coup, Ankara accused Washington of facilitating the mutiny, which involved some of the airmen serving at Incirlik. The dispute, however, did not affect the military cooperation between the two sides.