Egyptian Prime Minister Sharif Ismail has said he has “no information” regarding a request for asylum by U.S.-based preacher Fetullah Gulen, leader of the FETO terrorist organization, but said Cairo would “consider” such a request if it were submitted.
“Nothing has been confirmed regarding this issue,” Ismail said at a Wednesday press conference held by members of the Egyptian cabinet, according to Egypt’s official MENA news agency.
“But if he [Gulen] lodges an official request [for asylum], it would be considered,” he added without elaborating.
Earlier, a member of Egypt’s parliament had urged the government to grant Gulen political asylum in response to Turkey’s hosting of members of Egypt’s embattled political opposition, especially members of the Muslim Brotherhood group.
Since Mohamed Morsi, Egypt’s first freely elected president and a Brotherhood leader, was ousted in a 2013 military coup, Egypt’s army-backed authorities have a waged a harsh crackdown on political dissent.
The crackdown, one of the most brutal in Egypt’s history, has seen hundreds of Brotherhood members and Morsi supporters killed, while tens of thousands have been thrown behind bars.
On Tuesday, Turkish Justice Minister Bekir Bozdag said Gulen was wanted in Turkey in connection with Turkey’s July 15 coup attempt.
According to Bozdag, Gulen — who since 1999 has lived in the U.S. state of Pennsylvania — now seeks to flee to a country that does not have an extradition treaty with Turkey.
The July 15 failed coup bid — during which least 246 people, including civilians and security personnel, were martyred — is believed to have been orchestrated by Gulen’s followers in Turkey.
In recent years, the preacher and his followers have been accused of trying to infiltrate Turkey’s vital state institutions — especially the military, police apparatus and judiciary — with the aim of creating a “parallel state” and overthrowing the country’s elected government.
Last week, Ankara filed an extradition request with the U.S. calling for Gulen to be returned to Turkey to face charges of heading the FETO terrorist organization.
“We think he is considering countries to run to; he has some countries in mind,” Bozdag said in a televised interview.
He went on to cite Egypt, Mexico, Canada, Australia and South Africa as countries in which Gulen may seek refuge.
“He’s looking at countries that don’t have extradition agreements with Turkey,” the minister said. “He could flee [the U.S.] at any moment.”
The White House, for its part, says it is reviewing Turkey’s extradition request.