Already strained Turkish-U.S. relations have been further soured after Gülenist Terror Group (FETÖ) member Ahmet Sait Yayla was invited to speak to a congressional panel Wednesday that focused on the developments in Turkey and the July 15 Gülenist coup attempt.
Yayla is a former police chief who was suspended from duty due to his alleged links to the terrorist group. Despite that, he was able to testify before the U.S. Congress on a hotbed topic: the July 15 coup attempt.
Having understood that he cannot stay in Turkey as a terrorist group member, Yayla, who was chairman of the sociology department at Harran University, and a former Gülenist police chief, fled to the U.S. last November after it became public that he had links to FETÖ leader Fethullah Gülen.
Sait Yayla was added to the list of speakers to address the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee just hours before the hearing concerning the July 15 coup attempt in Turkey.
Speaking to Daily Sabah, Fahrettin Altun, Istanbul coordinator for the Foundation for Political, Economic and Social Research (SETA), said that the incident is unacceptable: "It is a step that could bring bilateral relations to a deadlock."
Turkey revoked Yayla's passport on the grounds that he was a member of FETÖ, which carried out the coup attempt.
During his panel presentation, Yayla not only defended Gülen as being free from involvement in the coup attempt, but he claimed the government and President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan plotted the overthrow.
"The U.S. allowed a terrorist group member to speak ill, as if he was struggling against tyranny. They have to account for this ridicule," Altun asserted.
Turkish-U.S. relations hit a new low after the latter refused to extradite FETÖ leader Gülen. Washington has requested concrete evidence that Gülen ordered the coup attempt. Ankara has expressed disappointment in its strong NATO ally.
Commenting on the future of bilateral relations, Altun said that the U.S. continues to further deteriorate relations even though it has to do the opposite. "We see that the U.S. cannot read Turkey, while it should be making up for its mistakes," he added.
Altun also slammed the U.S.'s stance toward the environment after the July 15 coup attempt. Stressing that Washington still sees it as a struggle between two parties, Altun said that FETÖ is a terrorist group and Turkey is not a side.
The other speakers on the panel included Aaron Stein from the Atlantic Council think tank, Alan Makovsky from the Center for American Progress, another think tank, and Nina Ognianova, Europe and Central Asia Program coordinator from the Committee to Protect Journalists.
Turkish Heritage Organization Vice President Ali Çınar also made his dissatisfaction known with the decision. He contended that his organization had been trying to suggest experts to speak at the panel, who were denied by the committee.
"There were only three speakers on the list until yesterday, but we regretfully saw that Yayla was added to the list today," Çınar said. "These kinds of stunning moves do not help better Turkish-American relations."