The U.S. has dropped criminal charges against nearly all of the Turkish security officers accused of viciously beating American demonstrators last year in Washington, D.C., as Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan sat in a car nearby.
Most of the charges were dropped last month, a day before now-outgoing Secretary of State Rex Tillerson met in Turkey with Erdogan, who was furious about the arrest warrants that had been issued against his men, The Wall Street Journal reported.
The attack in May outraged the American public and politicians after the foreign security guards beat up protesters in the nation’s capital. Members of Erdogan’s security entourage, many in suits and some spotted wearing Turkish security badges, can be seen on a Voice of America video rushing into the peaceful demonstration and punching and kicking protesters in the head. Demonstrators were protesting Erdogan’s human rights violations soon after he met with President Donald Trump in the White House.
Local police were overwhelmed by the violence, and nine demonstrators were hospitalized. A police officer and two members of the U.S. Secret Service were also injured.
Turkish officials did not deny the attacks occurred. They insisted guards had to take action to protect the president, and the Turkish-American citizens who had gathered to greet him, from protesters they labeled as Kurdish militants. Videos of the scene do not support that scenario.
Charges against seven of 15 of the officers charges were quietly dropped Feb. 14, the day before the Tillerson meeting. Charges against another four security officers were dropped earlier in November. Charges against only four guards remain.
A U.S. State Department official told The Associated Press on Thursday that the timing of the dropped charges before Tillerson’s meeting was coincidental. An official told CNN that questions arose about the identity of Erdogan’s guards involved in the attack. Several faces of the attackers were clearly visible in the Voice of America videotape.
Another Voice of America video taken of Erdogan sitting in his car indicates that the president himself may have given an order to attack. At one point on the video, an official bends down to apparently exchange words with Erdogan through the open car door as the president waits in the driveway of the Turkish ambassador’s residence near from the rally. The man then rushes from the car, saying, according to language experts, “Come, come! He says to attack,” and a mob of security officers then rushes the crowd of demonstrators.
Two Canadians have also been charged in the attack on protesters. Two U.S. citizens who were charged in the indictment, Sinan Narin and Eyup Yildirim, pleaded guilty to felony assault in December. They’ll be sentenced in April.
“We should throw their ambassador the hell out of the United States of America,” Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) said on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” after the attack in May. “This isn’t Turkey. This isn’t a third-world country. They violated American laws.”
The president has a major business interest in Turkey ― Trump Towers Istanbul.
“I have a little conflict of interest ’cause I have a major, major building in Istanbul,” Trump said in a 2015 interview on a Breitbart News radio program. “It’s tremendously successful. It’s called Trump Towers ― two towers, instead of one.”
In January, Turkey launched a new military operation aimed at Kurdish forces in northwestern Syria. The U.S. warned Turkey that Kurdish fighters were working with American forces in the Syrian town of Manbij.