- The Washington Times - Thursday, June 15, 2017

Metropolitan Police announced Thursday that they had arrested four people and issued arrest warrants for 14 others in connection to attacks by Turkish security personnel on U.S. protesters last month near the Turkish ambassador’s residence.

The warrants are for 12 men and one woman who were part of President Tayyip Recep Erdogan’s security detail. Police also issued warrants for two Canadian nationals.

Nine people and a police officer were wounded May 16 in a melee at Sheridan Square in Northwest. Video footage captured by news cameras and cellphones showed peaceful, pro-Kurdish demonstrators being surrounded or pushed to the ground and then kicked, punched and choked by members of Mr. Erdogan’s security team.

Speaking at a press conference Thursday, D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser said investigators compared screen shots of video footage with visas and passport images to identify the attackers. She praised D.C. police, the Secret Service, the State Department and the U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia for working together to identify the perpetrators.

Police are are expected to release video footage and photographs of attackers they have yet to identify, and ask for the public’s help in making the identifications.

“We take our position in the United States, as the nation’s capital, very seriously,” Miss Bowser said. “We host over millions of people who come to the seat of their government to protest peacefully. We support them, we make sure they are safe, but we also make sure they follow our laws and — certainly — anyone traveling to the United States will be held to that same standard. We will defend the First Amendment, and we will make sure that our laws are being enforced.”

Metropolitan Police Chief Peter Newsham added that suspects who are part of Mr. Erdogan’s security team are not protected by diplomatic immunity and will be arrested immediately if they attempt to enter the United States.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia also released a list of the accused — which include nine Turkish security officers, three Turkish police officers and two Canadian nationals.

The charges include felony aggravated assault, punishable by up to 10 years in prison, a fine of $25,000, or both; felony assault with significant bodily injury, punishable by a maximum of three years in prison, a fine of up to $12,500, or both; and misdemeanor simple assault, which can lead to 180 days in jail, a fine up to $1,000 or both.

Chief Newsham did not comment on whether police will pursue extradition.

“If they think they didn’t do anything wrong or that their actions were justified — I certainly do not feel that way myself — but they should bring themselves to the United States to answer these charges,” the chief said.

In earlier statements, Turkish officials claimed that pro-Erdogan supporters were provoked and defended themselves against attacks by demonstrators affiliated with the PKK, a Kurdish group designated by Turkey and the U.S. a terrorist organization.

Chief Newsham reiterated that the pro-Kurdish demonstrators were peaceful and exercising their First Amendment rights to assemble, and that police had no indication they were terrorists.

“In Washington, D.C. we do not care particularly what your views are, what you support or what you do not support,” he said. “Our role in this government and our role as a police department is to make sure that people do so safely, especially if you’re peacefully demonstrating it doesn’t make a difference what your demonstrating about.”

(CORRECTION: An earlier headline of this article read “Arrests warrants issued for 14 Turkish security officials.” The correct number is 12 for security officials and two for Canadian citizens.)

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