The White House is exploring legal methods of extraditing Fetullah Gulen, leader of the Fetullah Terrorist Organization (FETO), to Turkey in order to soften Turkish pressure on Riyadh over the killing of Jamal Khashoggi, NBC News reported Thursday.
Last month, the Donald Trump administration instructed the Justice Department and the FBI to reopen Gulen's extradition case, and also asked for information on his legal status from the Department of Homeland Security, four sources, including two senior U.S. officials, told NBC.
The National Security Council did not respond to Anadolu Agency's request for comment.
"The requests on Gulen in mid-October mark at least the second time the Trump administration has reexamined Turkey's extradition request since taking office," NBC wrote.
The news agency reported that a Turkish official said the extradition case is not linked to the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, who was killed by Saudi operatives after entering the Saudi consulate in Istanbul.
"We definitely see no connection between the two," the official told NBC. "We want to see action on the end of the United States in terms of the extradition of Gulen. And we're going to continue our investigation on behalf of the Khashoggi case."
FETO, led by Gulen, orchestrated the defeated coup attempt of July 15, 2016, which left 251 people martyred and nearly 2,200 injured.
Istanbul’s Bosphorus Bridge, since renamed the July 15 Martyrs’ Bridge, was seized by soldiers on the night of the coup attempt and became a focus for those resisting the putschists in Istanbul.
At least 34 people were gunned down on the bridge before the rebellious troops surrendered as the coup bid crumbled. The incident has led to 143 soldiers standing trial.
At Akinci, an air base to the north of the capital Ankara -- renamed Murted after the defeated coup -- the coup plotters established a command center to coordinate attacks, including fighter jets that attacked the parliament and Presidential Palace.
"One option that Turkish and Trump administration officials recently discussed is forcing Gulen to relocate to South Africa rather than sending him directly to Turkey if extradition is not possible," the officials further told NBC.
Ankara accuses FETO of being behind a long-running campaign to overthrow the state through the infiltration of Turkish institutions, particularly the military, police, and judiciary.