A DC grand jury returned indictments against 15 Turkish security officials and four other individuals Tuesday on charges of attacking protesters during an incident outside the Turkish ambassador’s residence on May 16, 2017.
The violence took place during Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s visit to the US.
CNN previously reported that nine people were injured in the melee, though witness and Turkish authorities have offered conflicting accounts of who was involved and who was to blame. All defendants were also indicted with “bias crime enhancements” – referring to hate crimes – to the charges.
The Turkish embassy says the protesters were affiliated with the PKK (Kurdistan Workers Party), which is a designated terror group in Turkey, the US and Europe, and has been engaged in a 30-year conflict with the Turkish government.
Turkey alleges the protesters “began aggressively provoking Turkish-American citizens who had peacefully assembled to greet the President.”
In June, DC Police Chief Peter Newsham said that “there’s no indication at all that the protesters were a terrorist group.”
The indictment characterizes the protesters as anti-Erdogan, some of whom were Kurdish and calling for the release of an imprisoned leader of a pro-Kurdish political party, the HDP. According to protesters and video captured by the Voice of America Turkish service, men wearing suits and earpieces crossed a police line and attacked them.
The Turkish security officials, according to the indictment, “used threats and physical violence – intensely kicking at protesters – to dispel the anti-Erdogan protesters, and blatantly ignore American law enforcement commands to cease the violence.”
One of the defendants shouted that the protesters were “dirty bastards,” according to the court document. The indictment also said a 7-year-old child was pushed to the ground and kicked – and another protester suffered multiple seizures after being punched.
Several of the Turkish security officials face charges of assault with a dangerous weapon.
The Turkish security officials left the country before they were charged.