Invitee claims being offered $350 to attend US meeting of Turkish minister

An expert in Turkey-United States relations was offered $350 (about 2 040,75 Turkish lira)  to participate in a roundtable discussion with Turkish Minister of Justice Abdulhamit Gul’s in Washington, Gazete Duvar news portal reported on Friday.

Gul is expected to talk about Turkey’s new Judicial Reform Strategy, which was unveiled by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan last week, in the US capital.

The reform package which promises to enhance free speech to affirm a new commitment from Turkey to European Union accession, came too late and too small, legal experts say.

The founding director of the Washington-based Middle East Institute’s Center for Turkish Studies, Gonul Tol, said in a tweet on Thursday that she and some other experts in the capital had been offered  $350 to participate in Gul’s event.

The offer for the meeting titled Justice Reform, was allegedly made by the Turkish Heritage Organization (THO), a non-governmental organization recently founded by Turkey’s Justice and Development Party (AKP) in Washington.

THO which organizes the meeting is known to accept funding from businesses with close links to Erdogan’s AKP though it denies affiliation to any political party and is listed as a civil society organization in the US.

“Justice Minister Gul will reportedly talk about Judicial Reform Strategy in Washington. Turkish Heritage Organization, which organizes the event, offers attendees $350 apiece to listen [to Gul],” Tolu tweeted.

She added that the invite was also sent to a number of analysts from the Middle East Institute and some other foundations in Washington.

“My American colleagues, who got the invite said: ‘Did you say Turkey faces an economic crisis?” Tol stated via Twitter.

Tol also shared a screenshot of the e-mail sent to her and her friends by a lobbyist, John Cpin, in a tweet.

“Would you like to attend this event on Wednesday, you would be paid an honorarium of 350. Turkish Heritage Organization invites you to a roundtable on Turkey’s New Judicial Reform Package featuring Abdulhamit Gul, Minister of Justice, Republic of Turkey,” the e-mail said.

THO released a public statement following the tweets and denied claims of having made the offer.

“A public relations firm that we don’t work with sent this invitation to her [Gonul Tol] without our knowledge. This invitation is beyond the knowledge of THO,” the organization said in the statement.

THO’s explanation included a screenshot of an e-mail sent to Tol by Cpin, entitled “sorry for the misunderstanding,” in which he argued that he had offered the $350 honorarium to invitees in an attempt to “prove himself” to the foundation.

“This was something I chose to do and THO was not aware of it,” Cpin said in the mail, indicating that he made the offer because he has been trying to become a consultant for THO for some time.

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