State Department voices 'concern' to Turkey on DC brawl outside embassy

Brunilde Fioravanti
Mag 18, 2017

Critics accused bodyguards of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who was in Washington to meet with U.S. President Donald Trump at the White House, of inciting the violence that targeted Kurdish protesters.

Police said the fighting that flared outside the Turkish ambassador's residence on Tuesday injured 11 people, including a Washington police officer, and led to two arrests.

"We are concerned by the violent incidents involving protestors and Turkish security personnel Tuesday evening", State Department spokesperson Heather Nauert says in a statement.

A video shows them crossing a police line and attacking the protesters. Two men were bloodied from head wounds as bystanders assisted dazed protesters.

U.S. President Donald Trump and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan lauded the relationship between their countries Tuesday, amid tensions over a U.S. plan to arm a Syrian Kurdish group for the fight against ISIS and the extradition of a Turkish cleric living in Pennsylvania whom Erdogan blames for orchestrating a July coup attempt against him.

Metropolitan Police Department spokesman Dustin Sternbeck says the altercation broke out between two groups but he did not elaborate on the circumstances.

"We intend to assure that there is accountability for anyone involved in this assault", he said. She said a pro-Erdogan supporter attacked her. Osoyan was hospitalized for her injuries.

"We are communicating our concern to the Turkish government in the strongest possible terms", the statement continued.

According to the Anadolu news agency, Erdogan's guards were forced to intervene after USA police took "insufficient security measures" to prevent an illegal demonstration.

But the Turkish state-run Anadolu news agency blamed local police for being unable to quell the violence and said the guards were merely responding to "terrorist" sympathizers. While he did not confirm whether Erdogan's security team was involved in the attack, he did say that his department was working with the State Department and Secret Service to identify the suspects.

The First Amendment to the US Constitution protects the right of free expression. After a national referendum last month that strengthened Erdogan's presidential powers, European leaders and rights advocates criticized Turkey for moving closer toward autocratic rule.

The Turkish leader has expressed readiness to open a "new chapter" with the new US administration after severe difficulties with the previous one led by President Barack Obama. Kurdish outlets have been hit particularly hard, and Kurdish reporters are often arrested while covering protests.

Meanwhile, the religious rights advocacy group the American Center for Law and Justice has written a formal letter to the United Nations in protest of Mr Brunson's detention.

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