D.C.’s Metropolitan police have secured arrest warrants for 16 people in relation to the brawl outside of the Turkish ambassador’s residence last month, including 12 members of the Turkish security force. You will recall that video appeared to show Turkey’s president Erdogan speaking to his guards immediately before they turned and attacked protestors standing in the street. Turkey has said that the guards felt compelled to shut down the protest because D.C. police would not. Turkey has also accused the protestors of being terrorist sympathizers.
In an affidavit to support an arrest warrant, D.C. Police wrote, “during the course of the official Turkish visit, Turkish security personnel and others assaulted protestors and U.S. law enforcement officers in at least three separate incidents.”
Authorities said they identified the suspects by comparing video of the melee to passport and visa images, using facial recognition techniques.
People injured in the attack and federal lawmakers have criticized the initial response, which was complicated by issues over diplomatic immunity and relations with Turkey. Officials at the Turkish Embassy in Washington declined to comment Thursday.
This is an improvement, but many issues remain to be sorted out. Turkey will certainly claim that some, if not all, of the security personnel have diplomatic immunity. State already ordered the release of two guards who were arrested for the brawl. The reference to passport and visa images also suggests that many of the suspects are Turkish and my already be back in Turkey. Warrants were also issued for two Americans and two Canadians.
Turkey’s behavior in this matter has been completely unacceptable, but so far State and the White House have failed to forcefully push back against the abuse. Turkey’s Foreign Minister even had the gall to summon our ambassador to protest D.C. police’s handling of the case. Whereas State and the White House may feel restrained by international politics, D.C.’s local police face no such restraint.