Speed Reads

Crime and No Punishment

U.S. indicts 19 people, including 15 Turkish security officials, for attacks on anti-Erdogan protesters in D.C.

On Tuesday, the U.S. Justice Department indicted 19 people, including 15 people identified as Turkish security officials, after a grand jury in Washington agreed that all 19 defendants were guilty of at least conspiracy to commit a crime of violence for their role in a May 16 brawl outside the Turkish ambassador's house in Washington, during a visit by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Some of the 19 face additional charges, too. The felony counts, punishable by up to 15 years in prison, were all beefed up with a "bias crime enhancement" because the attack was allegedly "based on the actual or perceived ethnicity and political affiliation" of the victims, in this case ethnic Kurds or supporters of Kurdish political parties.

Video of the melee shows men in black suits assaulting peaceful demonstrators in a park across from the Turkish residence. It caused quite a stir in Washington and Ankara, and while Turkey insisted pro-Erdogan civilians were simply defending themselves, the indictment identified the attackers as "pro-Erdogan civilian supporters, Turkish security personnel, and staff members from the Turkish diplomatic delegation" who "significantly outnumbered" the anti-Erdogan protesters and "blatantly ignored American law enforcement commands to cease the violence."

Sixteen of the defendants were already charged on June 13, and two of them — Virginia resident Sinan Narin and Eyup Yildirim of New Jersey — were arrested and will appear in court on Sept. 7. The three new defendants are all Turkish security officials, and it's unclear whether any of the Erdogan security detail will end up being punished due to international law. Still, if the Turkish guards return to the U.S., they face arrest and if they are still in Washington, they may be expelled.