Turkey formally requests US to extradite Fethullah Gulen over coup bid

The Turkish justice ministry on Tuesday sent its first formal request for the US to extradite Pennsylvania-based cleric Fethullah Gulen, according to a Turkish news agency.

Turkish officials had earlier issued public verbal demands for the cleric's extradition, but this comes as the first time that formal paperwork was delivered to send the cleric to Turkey to face charges that he initiated the failed coup attempt in Turkey in July.

Vice president Joe Biden, while visiting Turkey in August, had sought to reassure Turkish leaders, saying that the US took the case "very seriously." He promised that more lawyers would be associated with the case than any he had ever seen.

"We are cooperating with Turkish authorities," Biden told reporters regarding the extradition request. "We have no, no, no interest whatsoever in protecting anyone who has done harm to an ally, none. But we need to meet the legal standard requirement under our law."

Gulen has been living as a recluse in the US, based at the Golden Generation Worship and Retreat Center, a compound located in the Poconos region of Pennsylvania.

Gulen, however, blamed Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan for the failed coup in the country and suggested it could have been ''staged'' by the government.

On 15 July, in Ankara and Istanbul, rogue soldiers bombed the parliament and sought to take control bridges in a bid to seize power. They were, however, foiled by pro-government supporters. The uprising left 270 people dead.

Turkey, which blamed Gulen's religious movement for the violent coup attempt, sacked tens of thousands of suspected Gulen supporters from jobs in the judiciary, armed services or media, and many were imprisoned.

The US said last month that it had received a formal extradition request for Gulen from Ankara, not related to the coup attempt, but to issues for which he was being sought by authorities in Ankara.