- The Washington Times - Monday, July 10, 2017

A U.S. lawmaker is attempting to block the sale of a fleet of fighter jets to Turkey until the NATO ally cooperates with the investigation and prosecution of Turkish security officials involved in a violent brawl with protesters in D.C. in May.

Rep. David Cicilline, a Democrat from Rhode Island, last week proposed an amendment to the 2018 National Defense Authorization Act that would block the sale of F-35 fighter jets, in a deal that would have U.S. manufacturer Lockheed Martin supplying nearly 100 planes to Turkey, Defense News reported.

The amendment states that the sale should not be completed until the U.S. president can certify that the Turkish government is fully cooperating with “the criminal investigation and prosecution of Turkish Government employees involved in the assault on civilians in Washington, D.C. on May 17, 2017.”

The House Rules Committee is expected to vote Wednesday whether to move the amendment forward for consideration of joining the defense bill, Defense News reported.

Last week’s proposed amendment by Rep. Cicilline joins other attempts by congressmen and senators to use diplomatic relations as leverage in holding the Turkish government accountable for the actions of its security guards.

In May, The New York Times reported that leading members of the House and Senate foreign relations committees opposed the sale of over a thousand U.S. made semi-automatic pistols to Turkey.

Sen. Ben Cardin, the leading Democrat for the Foreign Relations Committee, and Rep. Ed Royce, the chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, separately expressed concern to the State Department over the proposed sale, The Times reported.

They were further joined by Rep. Dave Trott, Michigan Republican, and 35 other members of congress, who wrote in a letter last month to Secretary of State Rex W. Tillerson urging to block the sale of the pistols.

Also in May, the House approved a non-binding resolution proposed by Rep. Royce that condemned the Turkish government for the actions of its security personnel.

Last month, D.C. police, working with the Secret Service and the U.S. State Department, issued arrest warrants for 12 Turkish security officials, 11 men and one woman, who were responsible for injuring nine people and one police officer in fighting that took place outside the Turkish Ambassador’s Residence and in view of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erodgan.

While Turkey maintains the protesters were members of the PKK, designated a terrorist organization, D.C. Police Chief Peter Newsham said at a press conference last month there was no indication the protesters were anything other than citizens expressing their First Amendment rights and encouraged the accused to present themselves back in the U.S. to face their charges.

In video footage of the event, the accused were seen kicking, punching and choking protesters. The suspects’ charges range from felony aggravated assault to misdemeanor simple assault, which carry sentences of up to 10 years in prison and fines of tens of thousands of dollars.

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