Tillerson: Turkish Beating Of Protesters ‘Unacceptable,’ Investigation Underway

(PHOTO: REUTERS/Yuri Gripas )

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Will Racke Immigration and Foreign Policy Reporter
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Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said Sunday the Trump administration is investigating the violent clash between Turkish security officials and protesters outside Turkey’s embassy in Washington D.C.

The nation’s top diplomat called the incident, in which members of Turkish President Recep Erdogan’s protective detail viciously attacked peaceful protesters, “simply unacceptable.” The Department of State summoned the Turkish ambassador to discuss the matter on Wednesday, but Tillerson has thus far resisted calls to eject the ambassador or other Turkish diplomats, pending the outcome of the investigation.

“There is an ongoing investigation … and I think we’ll wait and see what the outcome of that investigation is,” Tillerson told Fox News Sunday host Chris Wallace. “But we have expressed our dismay at what occurred at the Turkish embassy.”

In videos from Voice of America and other bystanders, Erdogan supporters and Turkish security officers are seen punching and kicking the protesters as Erdogan arrives for a meeting at the ambassador’s residence on Tuesday. Though it lasted less than a minute, the melee left nine people injured, one severely. (RELATED: Video Emerges Of Turkey’s President Watching As His Goons Attack Protesters [VIDEO])

California Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein and Republican Sen. John McCain of Arizona sent a scathing rebuke to Erdogan on Thursday that demanded he punish his bodyguards and criticized his government’s oppressive tactics against demonstrators. McCain put the matter more bluntly in an appearance on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” earlier that day, saying “We should throw their ambassador the hell out of the United States of America.”

The State Department hasn’t released details about its investigation into the incident, but The Daily Caller News Foundation has learned that an internal agency memo identifies some of the men who took part in the fight as members of the Turkish presidential detail. These men have diplomatic immunity. Other individuals were hired from the Turkish-American community, the memo says, which means they are far less likely to have some kind of diplomatic protection. (RELATED: Diplomatic Immunity May Limit Police Investigation Of Turkish Attack On Protesters)

The Turkish embassy blamed anti-Erdogan demonstrators for the violence, claiming the president’s security detail was acting in “self-defense” against “groups affiliated with the PKK” — referring to the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, which NATO, the U.S. and the EU have designated as a terrorist group.

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