WASHINGTON, DC — A grand jury in the Washington, DC has issued indictments for 19 people, including 15 identified as Turkish security officials, for attacking protesters in May 2017.
The indictments, announced on Tuesday, charge the defendants with attacking peaceful demonstrators who were protesting against the visit of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on May 17.
All 19 are charged with conspiracy to commit a crime of violence, a felony punishable by a statutory maximum of 15 years in prison. Several face additional charges of assault with a deadly weapon.
Sixteen of the defendants had already been charged on June 13; Tuesday’s indictment adds three new defendants, all Turkish security officials.
All but two of the 19 remain at large. Two Turkish-American businessmen were arrested in June for their roles in the daylight attack on protestors and face an initial court hearing on September 7.
Of the other 17, two are Canadians, and the rest are Turkish nationals.
Video of the protest showed security guards and some Erdogan supporters attacking a small group of protesters with their fists and feet.
Men in dark suits and others were recorded repeatedly kicking one woman as she lay curled up on a pavement. Another wrenched a woman’s neck and threw her to the ground. A man with a bullhorn was repeatedly kicked in the face.
After police officers struggled to protect the protesters and ordered the men in suits to retreat, several of the men dodged the officers and ran into the park to continue the attacks. In all, nine people were hurt.
On the day of the violence, police detained two members of Erdogan’s security detail but released them shortly afterwards. Two other men were arrested at the scene – one for aggravated assault and the other for assaulting a police officer.
American officials strongly criticised Turkey’s government and Erdogan’s security forces for the violence; the Department of State summoned Turkey’s US ambassador to complain. The Turkish Foreign Ministry then summoned the US ambassador to protest the treatment of the detained security guards.
Rex Tillerson, the US secretary of state, said in June that the charges “send 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”.