Turkish professor in the US faces politically motivated extradition requested by Turkish government


Abdullah Bozkurt


A Turkish judge has requested the extradition of a prominent professor who has been critical of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan by filing papers with the United States and Germany as a crackdown on academics continue unabated in Turkey.

Judge Selfet Giray, notorious for initiating dozens of extradition requests and Interpol notices against critics who are forced to live in exile, submitted a motion on January 31, 2017 asking the United States to turn over Şerif Ali Tekalan, president of the North American University (NAU) in Houston, Texas. Two days later, the same judge filed another motion against Tekalan, this time asking German authorities to return him to Turkey.

Tekalan, a medical doctor by profession, was chairman of the International Association of Universities and the former president of the privately run Fatih University, which was unlawfully seized by the Erdoğan government and later shut down along with 15 other universities in 2016. He had previously served as a member of the Higher Education Board (YÖK) Executive Committee overseeing all universities in Turkey between 1992 and 1996. He also assumed the post of secretary-general of the Writers and Journalists Foundation (GYV) in Turkey before it was shut down by the government.




His affiliation with the Gülen movement, a civic group active in education and interfaith and intercultural dialogue, made him a target of the government, which launched criminal proceedings against him in what is seen as blatant abuse of the criminal justice system in Turkey. The movement is led by US-based Turkish Muslim scholar Fethullah Gülen, an outspoken critic of the Turkish president for corruption and support of armed jihadist groups in Syria.

According to documents obtained by Nordic Monitor, the 67-year-old Tekalan has been accused multiple crimes from terrorism to coup plotting and faces two aggravated life sentences if convicted. Half of the accusations leveled against him cite the time of the alleged crimes in 2016, when Tekalan was not even in Turkey. He left Turkey on October 24, 2015 according to the police file. His prosecution is apparently politically motivated, and his right to dissent and freedom of expression appears to have been criminalized by the Erdoğan government.

The paperwork in his case reveals that Turkish authorities also requested an Interpol Red Notice for his arrest in October 2016 at the urging of Ankara Deputy Chief Public Prosecutor Zafer Edis. Judge Giray, the presiding judge of the Ankara 4th High Criminal Court, moved to deliver what the deputy chief prosecutor urged and filed the necessary paperwork for the Red Notice for Tekalan.


Şerif Ali Tekalan

The police report filed on April 11, 2016 suggested that Tekalan applied to the Turkish consulate in Köln for notary services and that this application was immediately reported to the Foreign Ministry on March 30, 2016. The police Interpol/Europol unit informed the Justice Ministry of possible actions that could be taken against Tekalan in order to bring him back to Turkey.

Tekalan is one of tens of thousands of victims who have suffered at the hands of the oppressive regime of President Erdoğan, whose government has locked up journalists, human rights defenders, academics, judges, teachers and many others since 2016 on fabricated criminal charges. In recent years Turkey has been increasingly criticized for failing to live up to its commitments under international conventions that guarantee rights and freedoms. The United Nations and nongovernmental organizations such as Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch have all documented widespread torture and ill treatment in Turkish prisons and detention facilities.

Turkey’s abuse of international arrest warrants and extradition requests, sometimes done through Interpol, are subject to widespread criticism. Interpol even suspended the access privileges of the Turkish police’s Interpol unit in filing cases through Interpol mechanisms after noticing widespread abuse by means of multiple filings by Turkish authorities on politically motivated charges.

The arrest of Swedish and German nationals of Turkish origin in Spain in 2017 on arrest warrants issued by Turkey created an uproar in the European Union, with the bloc issuing a rebuke of the Turkish government. Spain later released the detainees and did not turn them over to Turkey.

On July 19, 2016 Turkey submitted to the US a request to arrest Gülen and on July 23, 2016 formally submitted an extradition request. After reviewing the requests, the US Department of Justice informed its Turkish counterpart that the requests had not yet met the legal standards for extradition required by the US-Turkey extradition agreement and US law. Accordingly, the Department of Justice noted, extradition could not go forward, absent additional evidence substantiating the allegations.

The papers filed against Tekalan are posted below:


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