Turkey

Warrants in D.C. Turkish embassy protest attack keep growing

Police in D.C. have issued arrest warrants for a dozen members of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s entourage for brazenly attacking and beating demonstrators outside their country’s embassy in Washington during a visit in May.

The new warrants come after four other pro-Erdoğan protesters were arrested over the past month, and a congressional resolution condemning the attacks. Most of the security detail, who were tasked with guarding the president during his trip to the capitol, face simple assault charges, although two face felony charges of assault causing significant bodily injury.

“The charges filed against the 12 Turkish security officials show that the U.S. does not tolerate individuals who use intimidation and violence to stifle freedom of speech,” said State Department spokesperson Heather Nauert in a briefing on Thursday. “The department will determine if additional steps will need to be taken.”

D.C. police also released warrants for two pro-Erdoğan counter protesters: Mahmut Sami Ellialti, who faceson two felony assault charges and Ahmet Cengizham Dereci, who faces one felony and one misdemeanor charge. Both are Canadian residents.

Pictures on Dereci’s Facebook page show him posing with other men who resemble participants from videos of the melee, and several pictures with Erdoğan himself. It is likely they will be extradited to face those charges in the United States.

Ahmet Cengizham Dereci, left; and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, right

It would be very difficult, however, for Washington to prosecute any members of Erdoğan’s traveling detail. Nauert declined to answer questions on how the administration plans on trying to return them to the United States, but did tell reporters that those bodyguards who left the country no longer enjoy diplomatic immunity.

“This is not over yet,” Nauert concluded. “We will weigh additional actions.”

D.C. police have now issued 18 warrants in connection with to the attacks on the protesters, including 12 members of Erdoğan’s security detail and four Americans, as VICE News reported on Wednesday.

The violent altercation ensued after a small contingent of Kurdish protesters assembled outside the Turkish ambassador’s residence to protest a state visit by Erdoğan on May 17. But things went south after pro-Erdoğan protesters, alongside black suit-clad bodyguards, began punching and kicking the protesters.

One Kurdish protester who was in the center of the demonstration and sustained injuries told VICE News in May that they had identified several of the members of the mob, including Dereci. Since the violent altercation, several Kurdish activists have been receiving threats, they said.

This isn’t the first time Turkish security officials have faced scrutiny for getting physical with protesters. Erdogan’s security forcibly removed a number of protesters from a venue in Ecuador in February, 2016.

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