Turkish representatives to the NATO Parliamentary Assembly (NATO PA) walked out of a Middle East Forum (MEF) event Tuesday when it was revealed that a person with links to the Gülenist Terror Group (FETÖ) was planning to speak there.
According to MEF President Daniel Pipes, the speakers invited to the event being held in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania included Emre Çelik, the president of the Rumi Forum, known for its affiliations with FETÖ.
Turkish participants in the event made it clear beforehand that the event would be cancelled if Çelik were not removed from the program, making an agreement with the MEF that assured Çelik would not be in attendance.
However, the MEF president said: "Mr. Çelik has agreed to speak, and he will address us here. ... In the spirit of the freedom of speech, I'm bringing him in to speak anyway." The decision was made in spite of an agreement with the Turkish delegation regarding the removal of Çelik from the event.
Two members of the Turkish delegation stood up and argued with event organizers and the head of the NATO delegation, Thomas Michael Jopling, a conservative member of the U.K.'s House of Lords. At the same time, two staff members from Turkish Parliament stood and joined the other Turks, preparing to walk out.
As Jopling convinced Pipes to speak before Çelik, during his speech he blamed the MEF for not complying with the agreement. "All I will say regarding the bombshell that you have tipped into our proceedings is that a verbal agreement was made that the gentlemen here would not speak," he said, referring to Çelik. "That is unacceptable."
As Jopling's remarks drew to a close, Pipes joined him, stating that he made the agreement by force. Jopling then departed along with the Turkish delegation.
Meanwhile, presidential senior adviser Gülnur Aybet spoke out against the MEF via her Twitter account yesterday, criticizing officials for deliberately inviting a propagandist with ties to the terror group that is responsible for the July 15 coup attempt against NATO-ally Turkey, while also attaching the MEF's tweet on the issue blaming Turkey for trying to stifle free speech."The Turkish delegation stormed out in protest. This is not 'stifling free speech.' Providing a propaganda platform for coup attempters is intolerable," she said, adding that she is disappointed in NATO for allowing delegates to be invited to an event where a coup plotter was invited to be a guest speaker.