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Turkey slams US arrest warrants for Erdogan guards

June 16, 2017

Ankara has attacked the US's decision to issue arrest warrants for Turkish security guards who assaulted protesters during President Erdogan's trip to Washington in May. The violence has been widely condemned.

Türkei Premierminister Erdogan mit Bodyguards
Image: AFP/Getty Images

Arrest warrants issued for Erdogan security detail

"What kind of law is this, what kind of justice?" Recep Tayyip Erdogan said, according to Turkey's state-run Anadolu news agency. "If these bodyguards aren't there to protect me, why would I take them with me to America?"

He added that Turkey would fight "politically and judicially" against the warrants.

US authorities on Thursday announced arrest warrants had been issued for 12 members of Erdogan's security detail for assaulting protesters in Washington last month. The men, all Turkish citizens, include nine security guards and three police officers.

The members of the security detail are among 18 people facing assault charges following the May 16 clash between protesters and security guards outside the Turkish ambassador's residence just after Erdogan met with US President Donald Trump at the White House.

Erdogan described the protesters, who he said were demonstrating at a distance of about 50 meters (165 feet), as supporters of the outlawed militant Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) and Fethullah Gulen, an Islamic preacher whom Ankara accuses of being behind a failed military coup last year.

Brawl involving Erdogan's security will be investigated

Turkey's Foreign Ministry called in the US ambassador, John Bass, for talks.

"It has been conveyed to the ambassador that this decision taken by US authorities is wrong, biased and lacks legal basis," the Foreign Ministry announced in a statement while also blaming local authorities for failing to take appropriate security measures with regards to the "so-called protesters."

Washington Mayor Muriel Bowser condemned the violence strongly on Thursday, saying it violated the US constitutional right to peaceful protest.

"We host millions of people who come to the seat of their government to protest peacefully. We support them, we make sure that they are safe, but we also make sure that they follow our law," Bowser said at a press conference.

Members of Erdogan’s security detail violently reacting to peaceful protesters during Erdogan's trip last month to Washington.
The charges stem from the brawl during Erdogan's trip to Washington in May.Image: picture alliance/AP Photo/Voice of America

Crossed wires

The charges against the 12, along with six other Turkish-Americans and Turkish-Canadians who joined the brawl, "send a clear message that the US does not tolerate individuals who use intimidation and violence to stifle freedom of speech and legitimate political expression," State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said.

The Washington Metropolitan Police Department said it had conducted an investigation using video footage of the incident with the State Department and US Secret Service.

It was unclear whether the Turkish guards would face immediate legal repercussions as a result of the charges, because they returned to Turkey with Erdogan after his visit.

Nine people were injured, with several going to the hospital for treatment of head injuries, broken teeth, deep cuts and bruises.

The US State Department voiced concern about the incident at the time. Senators John McCain and Dianne Feinstein also wrote a letter to Erdogan after the incident, charging that Turkish guards had carried out a "blatant violation" of the right to freedom of assembly by attacking "peaceful protesters."

Relations between Turkey and the US, two NATO allies, have been strained in the past 12 months, in particular over the US's arming of Kurdish YPG fighters fighting to take Raqqa, a stronghold of the Islamic State militant group in Syria.  

jbh/se (dpa, AFP)