A dozen members of the Turkish president's security detail have been charged over a vicious attack on protesters near the Turkish ambassador's residence in Washington, D.C., last month, law enforcement officials announced on Thursday.
The men, some dressed in suits and ties, were captured on video brushing past U.S. law enforcement and beating up protesters in what Washington police described as a "brutal attack." The violence, which left nine people hurt, came after President Donald Trump welcomed Turkey's Recep Tayyip Erdogan to the White House.
The Turkish government has blamed the violence on the protesters, whom they allege were linked with the PKK, considered a terrorist group by the U.S. At a news conference Thursday, D.C. Police Chief Peter Newsham said there was no indication the protesters were part of a terrorist group, according to the Associated Press.
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The U.S. Attorney's Office for the District of Columbia charged and issued arrest warrants for nine Turkish security officers and three Turkish police officers. Authorities also charged four other men — two Americans and two Canadians — for their roles in the chaotic skirmish.
Erdogan, for his part, has been accused of cracking down on political opponents and journalists following a coup attempt last summer. In one video recorded during the attack, the Turkish strongman can be seen looking on as his bodyguards clashed with protesters opposed to his regime.
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U.S. officials and lawmakers from both parties have condemned the Turkish government for the melee.
The two Americans implicated in the attack are Sinan Narin, of McLean, Virginia, and Eyup Yildirim of Manchester, N.J. Narin, 45, was charged with felony and misdemeanor assault; Eyup Yildirim, 50, was charged with two felony counts of assault and a misdemeanor count of assault. Both were arrested on Wednesday.
Video of the startling violence, widely circulated on social media, showed security guards pummeling a group of protesters with fists and feet. The men in suits could be seen repeatedly stomping one woman as she lay curled on a sidewalk. A man holding a bullhorn was repeatedly kicked in the face. All the while, American police officers tried to keep a lid on the mayhem.
D.C.'s Metropolitan police, in a tweet after the attack, called it an assault on "the First Amendment rights and principles we work tirelessly to protect each and every day."