19 people have been indicted in the US in connection to a clash between the security personnel of Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan and his protestors.
A brawl had broken out in May 2017 when Erdogan was visiting Washington. 15 of those who were indicted by the grand jury are Erdogan’s bodyguards.
In May 2017, Erdogan embarked on a state visit to Washington. During his visit, there was a group carrying the flag of the Kurdish PYD party. The Turkish government has engaged in conflict with Kurdish insurgents since 1978. According to eye witnesses as well as video documentation, Erdogan’s security personnel allegedly attacked the protestors for carrying the flags. A skirmish broke out that resulted in 11 people being injured.
At the time Flint Arthur, one of the protestors told CNN, "We are protesting (Erdogan's) policies in Turkey, in Syria and in Iraq. They think they can engage in the same sort of suppression of protest and free speech that they engage in in Turkey. They stopped us for a few minutes ... but we still stayed and continued to protest Erdogan's tyrannical regime."
Washington police chief described the incident as “brutal attack” on peaceful protestors. He said, “Yesterday afternoon, we witnessed what appeared to be a brutal attack on peaceful protesters at the Turkish ambassador's residence."
Arizona Republican Senator John McCain also weighed in on the incident noting, “This is the United States of America. We do not do this here. There is no excuse for this kind of thuggish behavior."
After the incident, the guards had been taken into custody but they were set free in a matter of a few days. There were growing calls within the political leaders in Washington for a more forceful response from the US government.
According to the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia, charges have already been brought against 16 of the defendants. The statement read, “All 19 defendants were indicted on a charge of conspiracy to commit a crime of violence, with a bias crime enhancement.”
Of the 19 who have been indicted, two American, also accused have been arrested. They are Sinan Narin Eyup Yildrim. If proven guilty, then the charges are punishable by a maximum of 15 years in prison and bias enhancement could lead to longer sentences.
Video footage from the incident shows Turkish security personnel beating, choking and kicking men and women. The Turkish Embassy has said that the violence was instigated by the Kurdistan Workers Party. This group is considered a terror organization by both Turkey and the US.
Our assessment is that these indictments are likely to cause further deterioration in the relations between Turkey and the United States. The relations currently are already fraught to begin with. There are other consequences as well. After the incident Germany warned Turkey that members of President Erdogan's security detail involved in the brawl were "not welcome in Germany.” Nations are likely to be worried on whether Turkish security personnel might begin clashes on their territories in the future if the President were to make a state visit.