Evidence needed for extradition

Turkish President-turned-strongman Recep Tayyip Erdogan has taken advantage of the recent failed coup attempt against him by racing to impose even further control. His vengeance is so comprehensive that it has given rise to the conspiracy theory that he staged the upraising to facilitate his consolidation of power.

As Erdogan does so, it is even more important than usual for the United States to demonstrate how the rule of law works.

Most northeast Pennsylvanians undoubtedly were surprised to learn that Erdogan placed responsibility for the coup attempt on a 77-year-old exiled Turkish imam, Fethullah Gulen, who lives in Saylorsburg, Monroe County, near Stroudsburg.

Erdogan’s government has demanded Mr. Gulen’s extradition.

Gulen has denied any connection with the coup. But it is not hard to see how his advocacy would rankle Erdogan. As Gulen has published sermons advocating religious tolerance, strengthened democratic institutions and peace, Erdogan steadily has eroded democratic institutions in what had been the Middle East’s premier secular democracy. He has used the standard devices of other strongmen in the region – fear-mongering, suppression of minority view and condemnation of Israel. Today in Turkey, the government does not tolerate free speech, free expression and a free press.

Turkey is a member of NATO and, because of its geography and relative stability, a strategic keystone of the Western alliance’s struggle against the Islamic State and other terrorist enterprises with roots in the region.

That, however, does not bind the United States to abandoning its own principles and those of other NATO alliance members that also honor the rule of law.

Secretary of State John Kerry is on the mark in saying that the United States will not act on allegations against Gulen without concrete evidence that he had committed crimes in Turkey. That’s the correct posture.

The United States must uphold its own standards rather than facilitate a purge by a man taking his country in the wrong direction.