The US Justice Department has issued three new indictments for members of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s security detail for attacking peaceful protesters in an incident in Washington DC earlier this year.
Tuesday’s grand jury decision means that a total of 19 people – 15 identified as Turkish security officials – have now been charged over their roles in the violence on 17 May during Mr Erdogan’s state visit to the US.
Nine people were hospitalised and two members of the Turkish leader’s security detail initially arrested in the brutal altercation with Kurds, Yazidis and Armenians protesting Mr Erdogan’s human rights record and Syria policy.
In footage from the incident Turkish bodyguards can be seen suddenly rushing at the protesters.
An elderly man holding a megaphone is kicked in the face, and several women are also hit. Police officers can be seen attempting to hold some of the aggressors back, dragging them to the other side of the street.
Both Democrat and Republican politicians condemned the violence on American soil at the time, saying it violated the right to freedom of assembly.
All 19 have been charged with conspiracy to commit a crime of violence, which is punishable by a statutory maximum of 15 years in prison, and several face additional charges of assault with a deadly weapon.
A total of 21 counts of assault and hate crimes based on the victims’ ethnicity were aimed at the defendants by Washington DC district attorney Channing Phillips.
Only two of the accused have been arrested. Of the 17 men at large, two are Canadian citizens and the rest are Turkish nationals.
President Erdogan himself criticised the initial indictment decisions in June, accusing US police of allowing “terrorists” to protest “50 metres from me”.
“Why would I bring my guards with me to the United States, if not to protect me?” he said in a speech in Ankara, in which he vowed to fight the charges “politically and judicially”.
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