WASHINGTON, DC — A U.S. federal court on Thursday denied Turkey’s request to drop a civil suit by protesters who were violently beaten as they demonstrated during Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s visit to Washington in 2017, The Hill reported.
The ruling by the Washington federal court maintained that Turkish officials’ violent acts against the protesters were not protected under the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act.
The protesters, mostly of Kurdish and Yazidi descent, did not pose an imminent threat to President Erdogan, contrary to what Turkey’s defence argued, U.S. District Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly wrote in her judgement.
“Turkish security forces chased and violently physically attacked the protesters, many of whom had fallen to the ground and no longer posed a threat,” the judge wrote.
In May 2017, Turkish authorities and a pro-Erdogan group were captured on video as they surrounded and physically assaulted protesters, including women and elderly men, punching, kicking and throwing them to the ground outside the Turkish ambassador’s residence.
The plaintiffs’ lawyer Doug Bregman, partner at law firm Bregman, Berbert, Schwartz & Gilday, welcomed Thursday’s ruling to continue the case against the Turkish government.
“We are sending a message to dictators that they cannot do to demonstrators in this country what they do to dissenters in theirs,” Bregman was quoted by the Hill as saying.
“President Erdogan and his minions are accustomed to indiscriminately attacking people across the world, and of depriving millions of Turkish citizens of their liberties,” Andreas Akaras, counsel from Bregman, Berbert, Schwartz & Gilday told Ahval.
“Judge Kollar-Kotelly took a close look at the facts and easily concluded that Turkey’s claims to sovereign immunity are meritless. Our clients were brutally attacked for exercising their first amendment rights, but their injuries are now cause for shining a bright light on the cruel and depraved authoritarian actions of Erdogan and his regime,” Akaras said.
Federal criminal charges had been filed against at least a dozen Turkish officers shortly after the incident, but the charges were largely dropped in March 2018, the Hill said.