Washington, D.C., Police Charge Turkish Security Guards For Beating Protesters

Jun 15, 2017
Originally published on June 15, 2017 4:19 pm
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U.S. authorities have issued arrest warrants for 12 Turkish security guards. Last month, the guards were caught on video beating protesters in Washington. Four others involved in the fight are also facing charges. As NPR's Michele Kelemen reports, this case is straining diplomatic ties with a NATO ally.

MICHELE KELEMEN, BYLINE: The U.S. government-funded Voice of America news agency captured the dramatic scene on video.

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KELEMEN: Turkish security personnel in dark suits are seen kicking and beating protesters outside the Turkish ambassador's residence as D.C. police try to break up the fight. In another video, Turkey's president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, returns from the White House, calmly gets out of his car and glances over at the chaotic scene. Police pored over the images and worked with the State Department to identify suspects in what Washington, D.C., Mayor Muriel Bowser calls a vicious attack. Nine people were injured.

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MURIEL BOWSER: It was an affront to our values as Washingtonians and as Americans. And it was a clear assault on the First Amendment.

KELEMEN: The mayor was speaking alongside Metropolitan Police Chief Peter Newsham, who announced the charges.

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CHIEF PETER NEWSHAM: If they attempt to enter the United States, they will be arrested.

KELEMEN: Turkey blamed local police for not taking necessary security precautions that day. Newsham says police were on hand and moved quickly to tamp down the violence. And he says if Erdogan's security guards think their actions were justified, they should come to the U.S. to answer the charges.

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NEWSHAM: This is the type of offense that is extreme in nature. When you have folks that are peacefully protesting here in Washington, D.C., which is a place where we welcome peaceful protest, and they're attacked for no reason, we think it's extremely important.

KELEMEN: State Department spokesperson Heather Nauret wouldn't say whether the U.S. would seek the extradition of the Turkish security personnel. She says the department is still weighing next steps. Turkey summoned the U.S. ambassador in Ankara to protest the warrants. Michele Kelemen, NPR News, Washington. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.