U.S. congressional leaders urge Blinken against protecting Erdoğan bodyguards in 2017 brawl

Prominent leaders in the both chambers of the U.S. Congress sent a letter to U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken, urging the administration against granting immunity to Turkish security officials who attacked protestors in 2017 during President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan's visit to Washington, D.C.

Fifteen members of Erdoğan’s security detail were accused of attacking and beating peaceful protesters outside the Turkish ambassador’s Washington, D.C. residence in May 2017. U.S. prosecutors dropped charges against 11 of the security guards in the incident earlier that sparked national headlines in the United States and outrage among members of U.S. Congress.

Erdoğan responded to the indictments of his bodyguards at the time, calling the U.S. judicial system ''scandalous.''  

Turkey filed an appeal last July following a Washington federal court decision to deny Turkey's request to dismiss a civil suit by protesters assaulted by bodyguards and supporters of Erdoğan at the Sheridan Circle in May 2017. The attack began shortly after Erdoğan's arrival at the D.C. residence and major U.S. newspapers looked into the incident to see whether Erdoğan directly gave the blessing to the order of assault.

The Turkish government’s legal team in the U.S. capital appealed the judge ruling which had said February of 2020 that violent acts by Turkish security officials and pro-Erdoğan supporters against demonstrators protesting the president is not protected under the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act (FSIA) because the judge wrote, “Turkish security forces chased and violently physically attacked the protesters, many of whom had fallen to the ground and no longer posed a threat.” 

Turkish government lawyers David S. Saltzman and Gunay Evinch filed a motion for dismissal, citing the "Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act", "Federal Tort Claims Act" and “Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act" should shield the Turkish government bodyguards.

The Bipartisan letter was signed by Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Robert Menendez and Ranking Member James E. Risch as well as House Committee on Foreign Affairs Gregory W.Meeks and Ranking Member Michael T. McCaul. 

The letter recalls that Congress quickly took several steps after the May 2017 attack.

"The House passed a resolution condemning the attack by a vote of 397-0. See H.R. Res. 354, 115th Cong. (2017). In addition to urging that those responsible be held accountable under United States law, the resolution also expressed the sense of the House of Representatives that the “rights to peacefully assemble and freely express one’s views are essential to the fabric of American democracy.” it said.

In September 2019, a U.S. district released court documents that revealed and published by Ahval first that Erdoğan’s bodyguards were involved in a series of unreported violent incidents during the 2017 visit, not only against the protestors but also U.S. Security officials in various points of Erdogan visit. 

Brawl Letter

There are currently two different cases against the Turkish security details. One is Usoyan v. Republic of Turkey, and the second is Kurd v. Republic of Turkey.

"Plaintiffs in both cases allege attacks by Turkish security agents against U.S. citizens and residents on May 16, 2017 while they were exercising their right to peacefully protest at Sheridan Circle in Washington, D.C." the letter said.

Andreas N. Akaras, attorney for Usoyan plaintiffs, told Ahval that the letter sent to Secretary Blinken, "represents bipartisan agreement that the attacks perpetrated by Turkey on American soil, are an unacceptable breach of comity, respect, and the rule of law. The Congress is firm in its demand that Turkey be held accountable for its unlawful behavior."

The U.S. Department of Justice is expected to submit their brief with the appeals court sometime this week, possibly as soon as Wednesday.

Letter Brawl