Former US national security advisor Michael Flynn discussed with Turkish officials the possibility of transferring Fethulla Gulen to Turkey, according to a Wall Street Journal report citing ex-Central Intelligence Agency director James Woolsey.
Woolsey said he attended the meeting with Turkish government ministers last 19 September, when Flynn was serving as an adviser to the Donald Trump presidential campaign.
Gulen, a Turkish cleric based in the US, is wanted by Ankara, which blames him for the 15 July coup attempt.
According to Woolsey, the topic was potentially illegal as it considered removing Gulen from the United States without going through the extradition process, including “a covert step in the dead of night to whisk this guy away”.
Flynn spokesman Price Floyd denied the report, calling it false.
“No such discussion occurred. Nor did Mr Woolsey ever inform General Flynn that he had any concerns whatsoever regarding the meeting, either before he chose to attend, or afterwards,” Floyd told The Hill.
Flynn was fired in February after failing to disclose that he discussed US sanctions on Russia in a phone call with the Russian ambassador before Trump took office.
US Justice Department documents revealed earlier this month that Flynn was paid $530,000 for lobbying work that “benefited the Republic of Turkey”. The retired general’s firm was hired by a pro-government Turkish businessman.
Although Flynn has a history of Islamophobic statements, he wrote an op-ed for the Hill in defence of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s Islamist-leaning government after last year’s failed coup.
In the opinion piece, Flynn paints Gulen as a “radical Islamist”.
“From Turkey’s point of view, Washington is harbouring Turkey’s Osama bin Laden,” Flynn wrote.
HR McMaster was appointed as Flynn’s replacement as national security advisor last month.
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