Grand Jury Indicts 19 Over Melee Outside Turkish Embassy

WASHINGTON (CN) – Federal prosecutors on Tuesday announced indictments against 19 people with ties to Turkey’s government who are accused of assaulting protesters near the Turkish embassy in Washington earlier this year.

Fifteen of the people for whom the D.C. grand jury returned indictments are Turkish security officials who allegedly assaulted protesters who demonstrated against Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan during and after his visit to the White House in May.

The security personnel and other Erdogan supporters allegedly charged through a police line towards a group of protesters gathered in northwest Washington’s Sheridan Circle on May 16, throwing the protesters to the ground and kicking and punching them to the point where some lost consciousness, according to the indictment.

Others accused in the indictment hit protesters with flags or other objects and shouted threats at them. Nine protesters were injured in the attack, with some suffering concussions and other brain injuries.

“The members and associates of the conspiracy used threats and physical violence – intensely kicking at protesters – to dispel the anti-Erdogan protesters, attack the anti-Erdogan protests and blatantly ignore American law enforcement commands to cease the violence,” the 20-page indictment states.

Sixteen of the 19 people indicted Tuesday had already been charged on June 13. The three new defendants are Turkish security officials.

All 19 are charged with conspiracy to commit a crime of violence with an enhancement for a bias crime, though many face additional charges including assault with a dangerous weapon and assault with significant bodily injury. The ages of those indicted range from 24-year-old security officer Hamza Yurteri to 53-year-old Ahmet Karabay, another security official with the Turkish government.

The conspiracy to commit a crime of violence charge carries a maximum of 15 years in prison, and the bias enhancements add another 7 ½ years if found true. All but two of the people indicted Tuesday remain at large.

Sinan Narin and Eyup Yildirim, two of those indicted who were not a part of the Turkish security detail, were arrested on June 14.

Many of the charges carry with enhancements for hate crimes, as the demonstrators held signs supporting the imprisoned leader of a pro-Kurdish political party and displayed flags sporting the colors of the Kurdish people.

“The members and associates of the conspiracy attacked the anti-Erdogan protesters because of their opposition to Mr. Erdogan, their support of the HDP, their support of ethnic Kurds and their belief that the protesters were ethnically Kurdish,” the indictment states.

 

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