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31 August 2017, 01:24 | Katrina Lee
Several Turkish security officials indicted for attacking protesters during Erdogan visit to US
United States authorities have indicted 19 people, including 15 Turkish security officials, for attacking peaceful protesters who rallied against the visit of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan outside the Turkish ambassador's residence in Washington DC in May.
All 19 were charged with conspiracy to commit a crime of violence, a felony punishable by a maximum of 15 years in prison.
While 16 of the defendants had already been slapped with charges in June, Tuesday's indictment by the US Attorney's Office for the District of Columbia added three Turkish security officials to the list.
Sixteen of the defendants were already charged on June 13 by the Metropolitan Police Department, two of whom have been arrested and will be facing initial court hearings on September 7. However, they could end up being threatened with arrest if they return to the U.S. If any are still in the country, they could be expelled if Turkey refuses to waive diplomatic immunity. Nine people were injured in the melee. Of the 17 men at large, two are Canadian citizens and the rest are Turkish nationals.
The security personnel and other Erdogan supporters allegedly charged through a police line towards a group of protesters gathered in northwest Washington's Sheridan Circle on May 16, throwing the protesters to the ground and kicking and punching them to the point where some lost consciousness, according to the indictment. Several also face charges of assault with a deadly weapon.
Video recorded of Erdogan during the incident suggests that he may have ordered his bodyguards to launch the strike. Erdogan was in the US for a meeting with President Donald Trump at the time.
The indictment characterizes the protesters as anti-Erdogan, some of whom were Kurdish and calling for the release of an imprisoned leader of a pro-Kurdish political party, the HDP.
In May a violent brawl broke out in front of the Turkish Embassy when security officials set upon a small group of protesters.
In a statement the ministry said that it protests the decision "in the strongest terms", and has conveyed its disapproval to the American ambassador. "The members and associates of the conspiracy used threats and physical violence-intensely kicking at protesters-to dispel the anti-Erdoğan protesters, attack the anti-Erdoğan protesters, and blatantly ignore American law enforcement commands to cease the violence".
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