Turkish personnel involved in violence against demonstrators outside the Turkish ambassador’s residence on Tuesday must be identified and, if possible, prosecuted or, if shielded by diplomatic immunity, declared persona non grata in this country, The Washington Post said in an editorial published on Thursday.
“President Trump laid out the welcome mat this week for Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, and the strongman apparently felt so much at home he thought it okay for his thugs to beat up peaceful demonstrators. That Mr. Erdogan has unfortunately been successful in stifling dissent in Turkey doesn’t give him license to come to this country and attack one of its most basic, and cherished, freedoms. It must be made clear that this behavior is unacceptable and will not be tolerated,” said the Post’s Editorial Board.
The demonstrators were protesting the policies of Erdoğan, who was visiting Washington for a White House meeting with Donald Trump earlier in the day, and were countered by agitated supporters of the Turkish head of state.
Police intervened in the fighting between the two groups, while a video recording posted on social media the same day also revealed that Erdoğan’s guards were involved, physically attacking the protesters. Eleven people were injured, with at least one of them in serious condition, according to US media outlets.
A State Department official said the Turkish security officials that were involved appeared to have been a mix of Turkish Embassy and Erdoğan’s security staff. After expressing concern about the “violent incidents involving protestors and Turkish security personnel,” Ambassador Serdar Kılıç was summoned by the department on Thursday to explain the incident.
“Particular scrutiny needs to be paid to the actions of Mr. Erdogan’s security guards, who, a state-owned Turkish news service confirmed, were involved in the fighting because — can you believe the gall? — they didn’t think police were doing enough to quiet the protest,” said the editorial.
Following the release of a statement by the Metropolitan Police Department on Wednesday saying that they intended to pursue charges against individuals involved in the altercation, DC Police Chief Peter Newsham reiterated at a press briefing that same day that “we intend to ensure accountability of anybody involved.”
Meanwhile, Rep. Ed Royce, chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee in the US Congress, sent a letter to Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson urging immediate action to hold individuals accountable for the brutal attacks on peaceful demonstrators outside the Turkish ambassador’s residence on Tuesday.
“To send a clear message that these acts of violence will not be tolerated, I ask that you immediately look into this matter and bring all appropriate criminal charges before these individuals leave the United States. Agents of foreign governments should never be immune from prosecution for felonious behavior,” he said in the letter.
In 2011 Erdoğan’s bodyguards were involved in a fight at the United Nations with UN security guards when the then-Turkish prime minister was refused entry at an exit door in the chamber where Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas was speaking. “The Turkish guards demanded that their prime minister be allowed to pass, and allegedly pushed the UN security guards,” according to a report in The Atlantic. “The UN guards pushed back, and the Turks apparently began swinging.” One UN employee was hospitalized with broken ribs suffered in the melee.
Erdoğan’s bodyguards also reportedly clashed with US Secret Service agents in Louisville, Kentucky, before the 2016 funeral of famous boxer Muhammad Ali. Erdoğan was cut from the list of speakers at the service and angrily left for Turkey without attending.
The Turkish president’s security detail also roughed up demonstrators and tried to eject “undesired” journalists at the Brooking Institution’s 2016 Nuclear Security Summit in Washington.