Federal investigators quietly dropped charges in February against 11 of 15 members of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s security detail who were involved in an attack on protesters in Washington, D.C., in 2017.
Prosecutors asked a federal judge in November to drop charges against four members of Erdogan’s entourage, according to The Wall Street Journal. Seven more saw charges dropped on Feb. 14, a day before Secretary of State Rex Tillerson traveled to Turkey to visit Erdogan.
The cases against Erdogan’s bodyguard has added to an already tense diplomatic situation between Washington and Ankara.
The charges were filed a month after a group of Erdogan’s supporters and security detail attacked a group of peaceful protesters outside of the Turkish ambassador’s Washington residence in Dupont Circle on May 16.
Video footage of the melee showed members of the security detail, some with service weapons, punching and kicking the protesters. Erdogan may have also given orders to launch the blitz. Video cameras captured him looking upon the scene from near the entrance of the ambassador’s residence. Shortly before his bodyguards attacked, he was seen passing instructions to his closest bodyguard. Moments later, the attack ensued. (RELATED: Meet The Erdogan Henchman Who Choked A Woman During Washington, D.C., Attack)
Two Turkish-Americans and two Turkish-Canadian private citizens have also been charged in the case. The Turkish-Americans are awaiting trial.
The incident generated outrage from U.S. lawmakers, some of whom called for Turkey’s ambassador to be kicked out of the country. Erdogan and members of his cabinet blamed the Secret Service and Washington, D.C., police for failing to protect Erdogan against the protesters, who he claimed were terrorists.
U.S. officials deny that charges were dropped because of political pressure, according to The Journal. They said that some of the assailants were misidentified. Tillerson highlighted the decision to drop charges against the security detail members during his meeting with Erdogan, the newspaper noted. (RELATED: Video Emerges Of Erdogan Watching His Goons Attack Peaceful Protesters)
One of the bodyguards still facing charges is Servet Erkan. He was spotted feet away from Erdogan before the attack started and was later captured on video punching and kicking protesters.
Charges also remain against Ismail Dalkiran. He was photographed choking a Kurdish-American protester. The woman, Ceren Borazan, said that Dalkiran threatened to kill her during the assault.
One witness to the attacks blasted the government’s decision to dismiss charges against the Erdogan entourage.
“As a witness to Erdogan sending his thugs to attack Americans on US soil…it’s particularly troubling to see U.S. officials allow this foreign dictator bully and bribe America into silence on such a brazen assault on our freedoms,” says Aram Hamparian, the executive director of the Armenian National Committee of America.
Hamparian recorded video of the attacks as they unfolded, and footage was used by various media outlets, including CNN and The Daily Caller.
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