The Washington Post on Wednesday ran a full-page ad from a Turkish-American group with close links to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan that called for the extradition of one of the autocrat’s political foes from the United States.
The U.S. government has opposed extraditing Fethullah Gulen, with President Donald Trump reportedly telling Erdogan that Gulen would likely be executed if returned to Turkey.
The ad, from the Turkish American National Steering Committee (TASC), runs on the fourth anniversary of a failed coup attempt in Turkey that killed 250 soldiers and civilians. Erdogan has accused Gulen, an Islamic cleric, of masterminding the coup and has called for his extradition from the United States.
“Justice delayed is justice denied,” reads the ad, which ran on page A5 of The Post.
“Extradite Fethullah Gulen and his accomplices from the US to Turkey to stand trial.”
Gulen has denied the allegation, and the U.S. government has repeatedly said that the Turkish government has failed to provide evidence that the cleric orchestrated the attack.
There is no evidence that the Turkish government or Erdogan paid for the ad, but TASC has close ties to the Turkish leader and his family. One of TASC’s top officials is a cousin of Erdogan’s, and the group routinely hosts Erdogan during his visits to the United States.
TASC hosted Erdogan as keynote speaker at its annual conference last September, held on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly.
According to the Committee to Protect Journalists, Turkey was second last year behind China in terms of imprisoning journalists. Turkey led in that category for the previous four years. The Turkish government has shut down scores of media outlets and jailed dozens of journalists over purported links to the Gulen movement. A Turkish court in March 2016, months before the failed coup attempt, ordered Zaman newspaper placed under state control over alleged links to Gulen.
The Post ran an opinion piece on Nov. 30, 2018 from Austrian journalist Max Zirngast, who was in jail in Turkey on false allegations of having ties to terrorists.
It is also widely believed that Gulen would not receive a fair trial in Turkey, and that he could likely face torture or worse if extradited back home.
According to former National Security Adviser John Bolton, President Donald Trump privately told Erdogan in September 2018 that Gulen would face certain death if he was sent back to Turkey.
“Erdogan also complained about Kurdish forces in Syria…and then raised Fethullah Gulen, asking yet again that he be extradited to Turkey,” Bolton wrote in his recent book.
“Trump hypothesized that Gulen would last for only one day if he were returned to Turkey. The Turks laughed but said Gulen needn’t worry, since Turkey had no death penalty.”
TASC has proved a reliable defender of Erdogan. In addition to its ads about Gulen, TASC has orchestrated a public relations campaign aimed at casting doubt on whether the Ottoman empire committed genocide against Armenians more than a century ago. TASC, acting in step with the Erdogan regime, has opposed U.S. legislation designating the atrocities as genocide.
The group has struggled in the past to place ads regarding the genocide issue with The Post’s chief competitor, The New York Times. Turkish media reported in 2015 that The Times rejected an ad from TASC because it denied that genocide occurred.
TASC officials were also spotted outside the Turkish embassy in Washington, D.C. in May 2017 when a group of Erdogan’s bodyguards attacked peaceful protesters. Halil Mutlu, a TASC officer and cousin of Erdogan’s, was spotted directing a pro-Erdogan chant at the protesters.
The Washington Post did not respond to requests for comment about the ad, including how much TASC paid for the full-page spread. TASC also did not respond to a request for comment.