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Twelve Turkish Security Guards Charged Over Embassy Brawl

by Countable | 6.16.17

Washington D.C. police announced Wednesday, with the blessing of the State Department, that they are charging twelve Turkish security guards for beating protestors in a brawl outside the Turkish embassy last month during a state visit. Arrest warrants have been issued.

The move heightened tensions that were already rising between the two historic allies. According to Politico, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan condemned the move, "while the Turkish Foreign Ministry called the U.S. action ‘unacceptable’ and summoned the U.S. ambassador in Ankara to protest."

The Turkish Foreign Ministry insisted to Ambassador John Bass that the fault for the altercation lies with the United States:

"[the brawl] was caused by the failure of local security authorities to take necessary measures; that this incident would not have occurred if the U.S. authorities had taken the usual measures they take in similar high level visits and therefore that Turkish citizens cannot be held responsible for the incident that took place … It has been emphasized that the decision, which clearly was not taken as a result of an impartial and independent investigation, is unacceptable."

Politico reports that extradition is "unlikely" and “despite the anger in Washington, the U.S. government considers Turkey too critical an ally to lose over what happened with the protesters.” However, the suspects were identified with full cooperation of the State Department, “comparing videos of the incident to passport and visa photos”.

Heather Nauert, a State Department spokesperson, acknowledged that the men were protected by diplomatic immunity during the original state visit as part of the Turkish president’s security detail, but if they return to the U.S. as individuals they could face arrest.

Both Democratic and Republican lawmakers have decried the violence, calling on the State Department to pressure Turkey to waive the suspects' immunity. The House also passed a resolution condemning the violence directed by Turkish security forces against peaceful protesters.

For their part, the D.C. police hope the charges and warrants send a strong message. Metropolitan Police Chief Peter Newsham said:

"You had peaceful demonstrators that were physically assaulted in the District of Columbia. The message to folks that are going to come to our city, either from another state or another country, is that’s not going to be tolerated in Washington, D.C."

Do you think the State Department should pressure Turkey to waive the suspect’s immunity? Use the Take Action button to tell your reps what you think!

— Asha Sanaker

(Photo Credit: Wikimedia / Creative Commons)

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