WASHINGTON – Police in the U.S. capital are seeking the arrest of a dozen Turkish security agents and two others accused of taking part in a violent attack on protesters during an official visit by Turkey’s president, a melee that became a major irritant in U.S.-Turkish ties.
District of Columbia Police Chief Peter Newsham joined Mayor Muriel Bowser at a news conference Thursday to announce arrest warrants issued for nine Turkish security agents, three Turkish police officers and two Canadians.
Newsham urged those being sought and some still unidentified to surrender and face American justice, adding two people were arrested a day earlier in the case. Relations were severely strained even before the melee, which came as President Recep Tayyip Erdogan arrived May 16 at the Turkish ambassador’s residence after a White House meeting with President Donald Trump.
Nesham said video showed security guards and some Erdogan supporters attacking a small group of protesters. Nine people were hurt.
“We all saw the violence that was perpetrated against the protesters,” Newsham said. “We’re not going to tolerate this.” He said many were being sought on assault charges, and other counts.
Erdogan’s security detail returned with him to Turkey after his visit, so it was unclear if any would face any immediate U.S. legal repercussions. However, they could end up being threatened with arrest if they return to the U.S. If any are still in the country, they could be expelled if Turkey refuses to waive diplomatic immunity.
Newsham recounted how video near the residence showed some attacking protesters with their fists and feet. Men in dark suits and others were recorded repeatedly kicking one woman as she lay curled on a sidewalk. A man with a bullhorn was repeatedly kicked in the face.
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After officers struggled to protect the protesters and ordered the men in suits to retreat, several of the men dodged the officers and ran into a park to continue the attacks. Bowser said the nation’s capital is a frequent protest venue but police insist those be peaceful.
“We make sure they are safe, but we also make sure they follow our laws. And certainly anyone travelling to the United States will be held to that standard,” she said.
Rep. Ed Royce of California, Republican chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, said Thursday he was encouraged by the police action.
“The violent attacks by Turkish security forces on peaceful protestors in Washington were completely and totally unjustified,” Royce said. “Now, the State Department should double down on efforts to help bring these individuals to justice.”
Police displayed photos at the news conference of those sought, urging the public to help find some still unidentified.
American officials have strongly criticized Turkey’s government and Erdogan’s security forces for the violence; the State Department summoned Turkey’s U.S. ambassador to complain.
The Turkish Foreign Ministry then summoned America’s ambassador to address the treatment of security guards who were briefly detained.
Turkey’s U.S. embassy alleged the demonstrators were associated with the PKK, which has waged a three-decade-long insurgency against Turkey and is considered a terrorist group by the United States.
Newsham said Thursday there was no indication that the protesters were part of a terrorist group.