WASHINGTON DC, United States (Kurdistan24) – On Thursday, Washington DC’s Police Chief, Peter Newsham, announced that 16 arrest warrants had been issued against 12 Turkish security guards and four others—two Americans and two Canadians—for their role in the May 16 brawl during Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his Foreign Minister, Mevlut Cavusoglu, latest visit to Washington.
“Peaceful demonstrators” were physically assaulted in our city, Newsham said. “The message to folks” coming here, whether from within the US or from foreign countries, is “that’s not going to be tolerated,” he affirmed.
“We have dignitaries that are in and out of this city on a daily basis,” the police chief explained. “Rarely have I seen in my almost 28 years of policing the type of thing that I saw.”
The two Americans involved, one a resident of New Jersey, and the other of Virginia, were arrested on Wednesday.
However, US authorities have provided no real answer as to how the fourteen others will be brought to trial. “The State Department is going to try to work that out,” Newsham said.
The US is walking a tightrope between its dependence on Turkish military facilities to fight the Islamic State and the human rights abuses of Erdogan’s increasingly imperious reign.
Secretary of State Rex Tillerson issued a statement, read by his Spokesperson Heather Nauert. He affirmed that the US “does not tolerate individuals who use intimidation and violence to stifle freedom of speech and legitimate political expression.”
“The State Department will continue to work with law enforcement and the relevant legal authorities in the case,” the statement continued. “When an outcome is reached, the department will determine if any additional steps will need to be taken.”
When journalists pressed Nauert if that meant the US would seek the extradition of those members of Erdogan’s security detail who have been charged, she provided no clear answer.
We are “examining the investigation’s findings,” she said. “We will weigh what additional steps will need to be taken.”
In a televised speech Thursday evening, Erdogan vowed to fight the arrest warrants “politically and judicially.”
“What type of legislation is this? What type of law?” he asked. “Why would I take my guards to the United States if not to protect myself?”
Earlier that day, the Turkish Foreign Ministry summoned the US ambassador to protest the warrants. The decision to issue them was “wrong, biased and [lacking] legal basis,” it said.
Erdogan spoke at the Brookings Institutions when he last visited Washington in March 2016. Altercations between his guards and protestors erupted, as they also blocked some journalists from attending the event.
“Turkey’s leader and his security team are guests in the United States,” the President of Washington’s National Press Club subsequently stated.
“They have no right to lay their hands on reporters or protesters or anyone else for that matter,” he said, when people are “merely doing their jobs or exercising the rights they have in this country.”
Editing by G.H. Renaud