Arrest warrants issued for Turkish security officials over embassy brawl in DC
Posted June 15
Police in Washington, DC issued arrest warrants for 14 individuals Thursday allegedly involved in violent clashes with protestors and police outside the Turkish ambassador's residence last month, including a dozen Turkish security officials.
The incident, which coincided with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's visit, aggravated diplomatic tensions between the US and its longtime ally.
State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert would not say whether the United States plans to seek the extradition of the security officials, who returned to Turkey prior to the completion of the investigation, avoiding arrest.
However, she did note that their diplomatic immunity lapsed when they left the country, and they would be subject to arrest if they returned to the United States.
"The charges filed against 12 Turkish security officials sends a clear message that the United States does not tolerate individuals who use intimidation and violence to stifle freedom of speech and legitimate political expression," Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said in a statement read to reporters by Nauert. "The State Department will continue to work with law enforcement and the relevant legal authorities in the case."
"When an outcome is reached," the statement continued, "the Department will determine if any additional steps will need to be taken."
Nauert also said US Ambassador to Turkey, John Bass "attended some meetings at the Turkish Ministry of Foreign Affairs today in Turkey" amid reports he'd been summoned by Ankara.
"If they attempt to enter the US, they will be arrested," DC Police Chief Peter Newsham warned at a news conference Thursday morning, calling the attack "extreme in nature."
"Any additional actions regarding execution of these warrants will be weighed by the State Department as appropriate under relevant laws and regulations," he added, noting the State Department has been helpful in supporting the investigation, and insisting no one from the Turkish embassy has been implicated.
Investigators were able to identify the suspects using video footage, Newsham told reporters.
The charging documents reveal that the suspects were identified by comparing screen captures from video footage shot at the protest to visa and passport images using facial recognition technology.
Shortly after the clash, footage surfaced showing Erdogan watching from the residence's driveway as members of his security detail beat up demonstrators.
Last month the State Department summoned Turkey's ambassador over the incident, which one official called "deeply disturbing."
The Turkish government summoned the American ambassador in turn to object to the handling of the case, and has accused the protestors of being members of the Kurdistan Workers' Party -- or PKK -- which the US and Turkey consider to be a terrorist organization.
"There's no indication at all that the protestors were a terrorist group," Newsham said, disputing that claim.
In addition to the suspects named Thursday, four individuals who were part of the Pro-Erodogan demonstration and not security personnel were previously charged in connection with the brawl.
Sinan Narin of Virginia was arrested Wednesday and charged with two counts of assault for allegedly kicking a protestor, who lost consciousness during the attack. Her recovery from bruising to the brain is expected to take six weeks.
Eyup Yildirim was also arrested Wednesday, and his case is pending extradition from New Jersey.
Two additional men, Jalal Kheirabaoi of Virginia and Ayten Necmi of New York, were arrested and charged immediately following the attack.