When Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan visited Washington, D.C. this past May, he was greeted outside the home of the Turkish ambassador by a small group of protesters concerned about his crackdowns on civil rights and antagonism towards Turkey’s Kurdish population. Within minutes, his bodyguards sprang into action, accompanied by others in the Turkish posse, beating and kicking the protesters – who included women and senior citizens. A 61-year-old woman later told the Guardian she had feared for her life after guards punched her in the face, and when 60-year-old Turkish-American Reza Dersimi tried to assist her, he, too, was assaulted.
Local police quickly intervened, arresting several of the attackers, including Erdogan’s guards. Some of those who ran off were apprehended in the days that followed but many remain at large.
The arrests infuriated Turkey’s president. “They have incarcerated our citizens!” cried Erdogan, who has regularly thrown foreign journalists and human rights leaders into Turkish prisons. “How is that possible? What type of legislation is this, what type of law?”
Now the U.S. government has indicted 19 attackers for their violent abuse of the protesters, whom Turkish leaders accuse of having been members of the Kurdish terrorist group PKK. (There is no evidence to suggest any protester had terror ties.) Turkey’s Foreign Ministry described the indictments as “unjust and biased,” and claimed they included “names of people that have never been to the US.” The indictment against 15 Turkish security guards, two Turkish-Canadians, and two Turkish-Americans, contains 21 counts of assault and hate crimes, and describes the incident as a “conspiracy to assault protesters and law enforcement officials.”
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