by WorldTribune Staff, August 30, 2017
A grand jury in Washington, D.C. has indicted 15 Turkish security personnel for attacking demonstrators who were protesting Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s visit to Washington on May 16.
A total of 19 people have been indicted and all were charged with conspiracy to commit a crime of violence, a felony punishable by a maximum of 15 years in prison.
Several face additional charges of assault with a deadly weapon.
Sixteen of the defendants had already been charged on June 13 but the Aug. 29 indictment added three new defendants, all Turkish security officials. Two of the defendants were arrested in June and face an initial court hearing on Sept. 7. The rest remain at large.
Witnesses to the brawl outside the Turkish Embassy in Washington claimed that members of Erdogan’s security detail attacked the demonstrators, most of whom were Kurdish or Armenian.
Eleven people were injured in the melee outside the Turkish ambassador’s residence.
Turkey has said the security guards have diplomatic immunity. Ankara has defended the guards’ actions, saying they intervened because police failed to stop protesters linked to the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) from being so close to Erdogan.
U.S. officials strongly condemned the attack.
“American soil is free soil,” Rep. Ted Poe, Texas Republican, said. “The idea that a foreign tyrant can come to the USA and allow his goons to beat up Americans on American soil is preposterous. The Turkish government is responsible for this action.”
Rep. John Sarbanes, Maryland Democrat, reiterated that freedom of speech is a fundamental part of democracy. “We want to remind Erdogan that in this country, we have a constitution that allows us to speak freely without fear of being beaten up.”