- The Washington Times - Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Metropolitan Police are working with the State Department and the Secret Service to identify people involved in Tuesday’s violent confrontation between peaceful demonstrators and security personnel for Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan outside the Turkish Embassy, officials said Wednesday.

“As a result of the assault, 11 people and one police officer were injured. Nine of those who were injured were taken to local hospitals, where they were treated and released,” police Chief Peter Newsham said Wednesday during a press conference.

The skirmish occurred about 4 p.m. Tuesday, as pro-Kurdish demonstrators marched from the White House, where Mr. Erdogan had visited President Trump, to the Turkish ambassador’s residence. Turkish media confirmed that members of Mr. Erdogan’s security team were involved in the melee, The Associated Press reported.

Chief Newsham acknowledged that diplomatic immunity could hamper police efforts to bring responsible individuals to justice.

“We are going to pursue everything that’s within our legal power to hold the folks responsible, accountable for their actions,” he said, adding that the State Department and the Secret Service have pledged their full cooperation.

The chief said investigators are combing through different video footage of the incident and are confident they can identify the people involved.

A statement from the Turkish Embassy on Wednesday contradicted statements by police, claiming that the pro-Kurdish protesters were actually the aggressors against “Turkish-American citizens who had peacefully assembled to greet the President.”

The Turkish embassy further categorized the protesters as “groups affiliated with” Kurdish terrorists. The embassy did not mention involvement of security personnel, referring only to “Turkish-Americans.”

“The Turkish-Americans responded in self-defense and one of them was seriously injured. The violence and injuries were the result of this unpermitted, provocative demonstration. We hope that, in the future, appropriate measures will be taken to ensure that similar provocative actions causing harm and violence do not occur,” the embassy concluded.

Earlier, police arrested Ayten Necmi, 49, of Woodside, New York; and Jalal Kheirabaoi, 42, of Fairfax, Virginia. Both men were charged with simple assault and released pending a court date.

Police had escorted the anti-Erdogan demonstrators during their peaceful march before the altercation occurred. Video footage shows people in civilian clothing fighting each other before police step in. Some of the men involved can been seen carrying firearms.

Ruken Isik, a pro-Kurdish activist and doctoral student at the University of Maryland, told The Washington Times that she was with a group of about 15 other activists who routinely stage peaceful demonstrations in the capital against Turkish policies toward Kurds.

Ms. Isik said she and her 4-year-old son were a few minutes behind the group marching to the embassy and missed the initial bout of fighting. When she came upon the scene, she found herself consoling the daughter of one of her friends caught up in the violence.

“Suddenly I saw black-suited body guards are running towards us. I tucked my son under my arm and started running,” Ms. Isik told The Times.

She said the people who were trying to grab her ended up grabbing her friend, Ceren Borazan. Video on Facebook and confirmed by Ms. Isik shows Ms. Borazan being grabbed by the throat by a large man in a dark suit. She is pushed behind a car and out of the frame, and the man appears to kick her.

The police report for Ayten Necmi says he “unlawfully assaulted and threatened Ceren Borazen in a menacing manner.”

“We couldn’t imagine they would attack us on U.S. soil, we weren’t expecting this,” Ms. Isik said. “This is happening in Turkey on a daily basis and people are getting killed.”

Condemnation of the violence rolled in from Congress and the State Department.

“If Erdoğan bodyguards who participated in this attack have entered the country on diplomatic visas, those visas should be revoked right away,” said Rep. Zoe Lofgren of California, the top Democrat on the House immigration subcommittee.

State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said officials “concerned by the violent incidents involving protesters and Turkish security personnel Tuesday evening. … We are communicating our concern to the Turkish government in the strongest possible terms.”

House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Ed Royce called on Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson to take immediate action against any member of Mr. Erdogan’s security team found to be involved in the altercation, before they leave the U.S.

“Agents of foreign governments should never be immune from prosecution for felonious behavior. Above all else, they should never be permitted to violate the protections afforded by the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution,” Mr. Royce said in a letter to Mr. Sessions and Mr. Tillerson.

 

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