Sixteen Charged With Assault Tied to US Visit by Turkish President

Ahead of a May 16 meeting with U.S. President Donals Trump at the White House, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his wife Emine disembark from a plane after arriving in Washington, on May 15, 2017. (Presidency Press Service/Pool photo via AP)

WASHINGTON (CN) – Prosecutors unveiled assault charges Thursday against 16 people over the violence against protesters that erupted last month when Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan visited the White House.

“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 in Sheridan Circle, located across the street from the Turkish Ambassador’s residence … on Massachusetts Avenue N.W.., near the Turkish Embassy,” prosecutors said in two sets of charging documents.

The documents were released this afternoon in conjunction with the courthouse presentments of two of the 16.

Sinan Narin, 45, appeared Thursday in D.C. Superior Court after his arrest a day earlier in Virginia. Eyup Yildirim, 50, was also arrested on Wednesday and made his first appearance that afternoon in U.S. District Court for the District of New Jersey.

Prosecutors plan to extradite Yildirim to Washington, where he is charged with assault with significant bodily injury, aggravated assault and simple assault. Narin faces charges of simple and aggravated assault.

Though the charging documents do not reveal either man’s affiliation with the Turkish security detail, they do say that the clash began on May 16 outside the White House on May 16, with protesters raising signs and chants in disapproval of Erdogan’s treatment of the Kurds in the Middle East.

Secret Service officers intervened, prosecutors say, when one Erdogan supporter tried to grab one of the protester’s signs.

As both sides continued shouting back and forth over the line of officers, according to the affidavit, Erdogan finished his meeting with President Donald Trump, and the protest followed him to the Turkish ambassador’s house in Northwest Washington.

After regrouping across the street in Sheridan Circle, according to the affidavit, the protesters chanted through bullhorns and held signs demanding the release of Selahattin Demirtas, the imprisoned leader of a pro-Kurdish party in Turkey.

Turkish security and staff members stood watch on the street corner across from the circle, some armed with firearms. The pro-Erdogan group “outnumbered the protestors by two to one at a minimum,” according to the affidavit.

Some waived Turkish and American flags and yelled “anti-Kurdish” messages, according to the affidavit.

The scuffle between the Erdogan group and the protesters broke out shortly after 4 p.m. Prosecutors say a member of Erdogan’s security detail pushed a protestor to the ground, while another Erdogan supporter hit the protester in the face with a flag.

Police broke up the violence quickly, but the calm lasted just minutes before Turkish security guards broke through a line of officers and crossed into Sheridan Circle.

The affidavit says other Erdogan supporters joined the suited guards in attacking protesters, throwing them to the ground and kicking them repeatedly.   

The affidavit says the security guards could be seen talking to one another and “touching communications devices before they rushed across the street.”

“At the time the pro- Erdoğan group rushed into Sheridan Circle, the anti- Erdoğan protestors were in the circle itself,” the affidavit states. “Though they continued to chant and shout anti- Erdoğan and pro-Kurdish messages, they were not physically aggressive in any way, nor were they even physically proximate to the pro- Erdoğan contingent.”

Nine protesters suffered injuries in the attack, with several sustaining concussions or other brain injuries. Lusik Usiyan, one of the protesters Narin is accused of attacking, lost consciousness after the Erdogan supporters kicked her repeatedly in the head and body, according to the affidavit.

Usiyan had trouble remembering words when talking to officers and had to be helped off of the ground after the attack. Having suffered bruises to her brain, Usiyan still experiences nausea and is expected to take six weeks to recover, according to the affidavit.

Narin, who lives just outside of Washington in McLean, Va., faces up to 10 years in prison for the aggravated assault and six months in prison for the simple assault. Together, the fines attached to the charges could run as high as $26,000, according to a representative for the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

U.S. Magistrate Judge Frederick Sullivan ordered Narin held without bond on Thursday afternoon. Narin is scheduled to appear in court again Friday for a preliminary hearing.

Two other people were arrested on the day of the incident and face charges of simple assault.

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