Last month, a protest outside the Turkish ambassador’s residence in Washington D.C. turned bloody when pro-Erdogan security forces roughed up the activists outside. The ensuing brawl injured 11 people, including a police officer and two secret service agents. Now formal charges will be brought against a dozen guards who were involved, in addition to charges filed against others involved in the melee.
Erdogan watched the beatdown from his car and a few hours later left the country with his security detail — which presents a bit of a problem with actually meting out punishment. Charges have been filed, but without extradition, it’s unclear what can actually be done about the felony and misdemeanor counts levied against the Turkish citizens in Erdogan’s employ. An American and a Canadian who participated in the fight have also been charged, and, presumably, will be easier to deal with.
Up until the charges were filed, all that had come of the attack was a lot of finger shaking and tongue wagging, with a number of Washington lawmakers weighing in.
A week ago the House went so far as to condemn the attack and demand further action. Paul Ryan tweeted a statement announcing that with that resolution, “The House sent an unequivocal message that violence against peaceful demonstrators will not be tolerated. Our resolve to defend the First Amendment and condemn suppression is stronger than ever.”
The New York Times notes that this isn’t the first time Erdogan’s security detail has misbehaved on U.S. soil. They’ve gotten into fights at the United Nations and the Brookings Institution in Washington, too. This was a particularly brazen incident though, on the heels of Erdogan’s meeting with President Trump, during which the administration had to mince around Turkey’s repeated crackdowns at home since a failed coup last summer.
Despite all the ballyhoo about first amendment rights and Capitol Hill’s eagerness to contrast American freedom of speech with Erdogan’s strongman tactics, Turkey doesn’t seem particularly embarrassed. The brawl was just business as usual for Erdogan’s team, for whom even a few criminal charges were worth the opportunity to give those Turkish-Americans protestors a taste of home.
(Via New York Times)