Video has emerged showing Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan calmly looking on as members of his security detail attack a group of Kurdish protesters outside of the Turkish embassy in Washington, D.C. on Tuesday.
The video, which was uploaded by VOA Turkish, may also show Erdogan relaying orders to a personal bodyguard just moments before his security detail went after the protesters.
The video is filmed from behind a black Mercedes Benz occupied by Erdogan, who had just left a White House meeting with President Trump.
Kurdish protesters can be heard chanting in the video. One of Erdogan’s personal bodyguards is also seen bending down into the Mercedes, which is surrounded by around 10 suited men.
The video then shows Erdogan’s bodyguard standing up outside of the vehicle before appearing to relay commands to another man closer to the protests unfolding on the street outside the embassy. The man then turns and appears to rush off towards the protests. Seconds later, men in suits working in some capacity for the Turkish government go after the protesters.
Given Erdogan’s iron-like grip on his government, it is unlikely that his security detail would have acted without direct orders.
The VOA footage zooms in as Erdogan’s security detail is seen punching and kicking the protesters. The melee dissipated in less than a minute, and Erdogan is seen emerging from the Mercedes Benz. He then enters the ambassador’s residence flanked by several Turkish government ministers, including Berat Albayrak, Turkey’s energy minister and Erdogan’s son-in-law.
The pro-Erdogan side of the street fight appears to have prevailed. Two male protesters were filmed on video covered in blood, and a female protester was photographed being choked by a suited man who appears to be a member of the presidential security detail. Nine people were injured, one severely.
The State Department, which says it is investigating the brawl, has so far provided little information about the culprits. But The Daily Caller has learned that a memo circulating within the agency has determined that some of the men who took part in the violence are part of the Turkish presidential detail and have diplomatic immunity. Others were hired from the Turkish-American community, raising questions about whether they will receive diplomatic protection.
The unclassified memo, a readout of which was provided to TheDC, also identifies a U.S.-based group called the Turkish American Steering Committee (TASC) as having some link to Tuesday’s events.
It is unclear what role TASC played in the drama, though several members of the organization were spotted outside of the embassy during and after Tuesday’s violence. One of the group’s board members is Halil Mutlu, a cousin of Erdogan’s. He was seen on the sidelines of Tuesday’s fracas leading a chant supporting his relative.
The State Department’s press office declined comment on the internal memo or the status of the investigation into the brawl.
“As the investigation into [Tuesday’s] events remains ongoing, we’ll decline any further comment at this time,” a spokeswoman said. (RELATED: Here’s What Happened Outside Of The Turkish Embassy)
After the violence subsided, Serdar Kilic, Turkey’s ambassador to the U.S., confronted police and appeared to warn them about legal protections provided foreign diplomats.
“You cannot touch us,” Kilic shouted at one officer.
The Washington, D.C. Metropolitan police department said that it was cooperating with the State Department and Secret Service to identify the people responsible for the attack. But DC’s police chief said in a press conference on Wednesday that some of the attackers may be protected by diplomatic immunity.
Under U.S. and international law, “diplomatic agents” and some technical and administrative staff assigned to embassies are provided broad legal protections from criminal prosecution. Another category, “members of service” staff, are provided immunity only for activities carried out as part of their official duties. (RELATED: Diplomatic Immunity May Limit Police Investigation Of Turkish Attack On Protesters)
Determining whether Tuesday’s violence would be considered an official duty of the presidential security detail is likely to be a topic of debate between the U.S. and Turkish governments.
It is also unclear how diplomatic protections would apply to security staff hired through an intermediary.
On Wednesday, the State Department expressed its concern to the Turkish government “in the strongest possible terms.” The Turkish embassy issued a statement denied any responsibility for the violence, saying that Erdogan’s security detail was acting in “self-defense” against what it called Kurdish terrorists.
Numerous U.S. lawmakers called for criminal charges to be filed against the assailants. Arizona Sen. John McCain called on the U.S. government to kick Kilic, the ambassador, out of the country over Tuesday’s events.
“We should throw their ambassador the hell out of the United States of America. This is the United States of America, this isn’t Turkey, this isn’t a third-world country. This kind of thing cannot go un-responded to diplomatically,” McCain fumed on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe.” (RELATED: John McCain: Throw Turkish Ambassador ‘The Hell Out Of The USA’)