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A grand jury in Washington has indicted 19 people, including 15 Turkish security officials, in connection with a brawl that broke out during Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s visit to the U.S. capital in May.
The indictments, announced Tuesday, charge the defendants with attacking peaceful protesters outside the Turkish ambassador’s residence.
All 19 are charged with conspiracy to commit a crime of violence, a felony punishable by a statutory maximum of 15 years in prison. Several face additional charges of assault with a deadly weapon.
Sixteen of the defendants had already been charged in June; Tuesday’s indictment adds three new defendants, all Turkish security officials.
The incident, which took place after Erdogan met with President Donald Trump at the White House, put further stress on already strained relations between Washington and Ankara.
Demonstration at Turkish Embassy in DC Turns Violent
Video of the incident recorded by VOA Turkish showed men who appeared to be security guards and Erdogan supporters attacking and beating a small group of protesters.
Men in dark suits and others repeatedly kicked one woman as she lay curled up on a sidewalk. Another wrenched a woman’s neck and threw her to the ground. A protester with a bullhorn was repeatedly kicked in the face.
Washington police struggled to protect the protesters, who did not appear to initiate the attacks, and ordered the Erdogan supporters to retreat. Several suspects dodged the officers, however, and continued to flail at and punch their targets.
The Turkish Embassy claimed Erdogan’s bodyguards acted in “self-defense,” without citing any evidence. Turkish diplomats further claimed that the protesters were affiliated with the PKK, the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, an outlawed group in Turkey, but offered no substantiation for that accusation.
Nine people were injured in the skirmish.
Turkish President Erdogan Watched Violent Clash
VOAnews.com later posted additional video recorded just before the clash. It showed that Erdogan, returning to the embassy after his White House meetings, spoke briefly with members of his armed security detail; moments later, the bodyguards broke through a police line and violently charged the protesters. Erdogan, standing beside his limousine, was seen looking on as the attack unfolded.