By Kasim Ileri
An alleged member of the Fetullah Terrorist Organization (FETO) was invited Wednesday to speak to a congressional panel on Turkey, a stunning move that could exacerbate tensions between Ankara and Washington.
Ahmet Sait Yayla was added to the list of speakers to address the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Europe, Eurasia and Emerging Threats, just hours before the hearing on the July 15 coup attempt in Turkey.
Yayla, who was chairman of the sociology department at Harran University in Turkey, and a former police chief, escaped to the U.S. last November after it became public he had alleged links to FETO leader, Fetullah Gulen.
Turkey revoked Yayla’s passport and accused him of being a member of FETO it says carried out the coup attempt.
Allowing an alleged Gulen member to address U.S. lawmakers will undoubtedly put another wrinkle in the ties between Ankara and Washington surrounding Gulen’s extradition.
During his panel presentation, Yayla not only defended Gulen as being free from involvement in the coup attempt, but he claimed the Turkish government and President Recep Tayyip Erdogan plotted the overthrow.
Turkey has officially submitted to the U.S. all evidence that Gulen’s network established a quasi-state within the Turkish state in an attempt to topple the government and ultimately tried to take over the state via a bloody coup attempt.
Turkish authorities also issued an official request for the extradition of Gulen under a 1979 treaty between Turkey and the U.S.
It is unclear how Yayla was added to the speaker’s list but remarks by the head of the subcommittee, Republican lawmaker Dana Rohrabacher, may provide some insight.
Rohrabacher targeted the Turkish government in remarks before the panel and claimed he would not believe Gulen orchestrated the failed coup while demanding Turkey produce more concrete evidence about Gulen’s link to the terrorist network in order for the U.S. to extradite him.
Yayla’s appearance triggered reaction from a Turkish-American organization in Washington.
Turkish Heritage Organization Vice President Ali Cinar told Anadolu Agency his organization had been trying for weeks to have one of its experts added to the list of speakers but was denied the request on grounds the panel was limited to just three speakers.
"There were only three speakers on the list until yesterday but we regretfully saw that Yayla was added to the list today,” Cinar said. “These kinds of stunning moves do not help better Turkish-American relations.”
He said Turkish organizations would monitor developments surrounding Yayla’s testimony.
Turkey's ambassador to Washington, Serdar Kilic, also reacted to the hearing, calling it "biased" and a "hostile approach".
“Biased & hostile approach displayed at the House Sub-Committee hearing today was disgrace to the principles of neutrality and fairness,” Ambassador Kilic tweeted.
“I expect the US Congress to express concern about the way the Chairman of the House Sub-Committee conducted today's hearing on Turkey.”
The other speakers on the panel included Aaron Stein from the Atlantic Council think tank, Alan Makovsky from Center for American Progress, another think tank, and Nina Ognianova -- Europe and Central Asia Program coordinator from the Committee to Protect Journalists.Anadolu Agency website contains only a portion of the news stories offered to subscribers in the AA News Broadcasting System (HAS), and in summarized form. Please contact us for subscription options.