The Turkish Embassy in Switzerland threatened on Friday to take legal action against local supporters of Fethullah Gülen, whom Turkish president Erdogan alleges is responsible for last week’s coup. The Swiss Federal Office of Justice responded that if it proceeds, Turkey will need to follow established legal channels.
President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has been searching for those responsible for the July 15 coup attempt. At a press conference on Friday morning, the Turkish Ambassador ad interim, Volkan Karagöz, referred to Gülen’s movement as a terrorist organisation. Gülen – a former Erdogan supporter who now lives in exile in the United States – has been designated public enemy number one by Erdogan.
There are hurdles to overcome if Turkey wants to prosecute potential coup supporters in Switzerland, the Federal Office of Justice told the Swiss News Agency. When a foreign country needs information from Switzerland for use in criminal proceedings, it is necessary to file a request for mutual assistance.
To date, no such request in connection with the coup has been received from Ankara, according to a spokeswoman from the justice office.
Further, if a foreign government wants to arrest people living in Switzerland, it must file a request for extradition. This must fulfill certain prerequisites. For example, an offence must be punishable in both countries. Switzerland does not provide legal assistance if it considers an offence to be primarily of political character, said the justice office.
Asked whether members of the Gülen movement living outside of Turkey would be considered terrorists by the Turkish government, Karagöz said that Switzerland and Turkey have different definitions of terrorist organisations.
Relations between supporters and opponents of Turkish President Erdogan living in Switzerland are under strain in the wake of last week’s failed coup, according to Swiss papers.
The split between the reclusive US-based Muslim cleric and Erdogan, which took place three years ago, has divided the Turkish community in Switzerland.
An estimated 120,000 people with Turkish roots, including 68,000 Turkish citizens, currently live in Switzerland.
swissinfo.ch and agencies