40 Congressmen Write Letter Advocating for Turkish Personnel Involved in Attack on Protesters to be Expelled From the United States

'All of those involved—at all levels—must be held accountable'

Assailants kick a protester outside the residence of the Turkish ambassador in Washington, D.C. / Still from Voice of America
May 26, 2017

A group of 40 representatives wrote a letter to the Justice Department and State Department on Thursday urging them to immediately expel any Turkish personnel involved in a violent attack on protesters in Washington, D.C., earlier this month.

"This may be how they deal with dissenters in Turkey, but here in America that's against the law," Rep. Randy Hultgren (R., Ill.) said in a statement about the letter. "Our country is founded on the rights of free speech and freedom of peaceful assembly. Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan's security team's brazen, physical assault on American citizens and legal residents peacefully protesting his policies is outrageous and follows a disturbing pattern. Foreign leaders, diplomats, and staff are invited guests of our nation, and they should act as such. All of those involved—at all levels—must be held accountable."

The attack on protesters came on May 16 during Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan's visit to the United States. A few minutes after Erdogan arrived at the Turkish ambassador's residence in Washington, D.C., a number of his bodyguards and supporters rushed a group of protesters and began beating them. D.C. Police eventually separated the attackers from the protesters but not before a number received injuries requiring hospitalization.

Erdogan's government responded to the incident by blaming the protesters for instigating the attack despite video evidence that contradicts their claims. "The demonstrators began aggressively provoking Turkish-American citizens who had peacefully assembled to greet the President," the Turkish embassy said in a statement on the incident. "The Turkish-Americans responded in self-defense and one of them was seriously injured. The violence and injuries were the result of this unpermitted, provocative demonstration."

The Turkish government, which recently cracked down on free press in Turkey, has yet to respond to questions from the Washington Free Beacon.

The investigation into the attack is still ongoing and currently includes resources from the State Department, Secret Service, and D.C. Police. "The investigation remains active and is being conducted jointly by the Department of State's Diplomatic Security Service, U.S. Secret Service, and MPD," D.C. Police spokesperson Rachel Reid told the Free Beacon. "All three law enforcement agencies are actively sharing information and will remain in contact as the investigation proceeds."

D.C. Chief of Police Peter Newsham has said diplomatic immunity may hinder holding some of those involved in the attack accountable for their actions.

In their letter to Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, the congressmen expressed outrage over the attacks and said the continued problems caused by Turkish personnel on American soil were unacceptable. "This behavior is the second time in two years that Turkish security forces have threatened and assaulted U.S. citizens and legal residents on American soil," the letter said. "This is unacceptable in any situation, but even more so when Turkish leaders come and claim to be faithful allies to the United States. This clear disrespect for our laws and those who enforce them, especially during National Police Week, is intolerable."

"The individuals involved in Tuesday's attacks on Americans on U.S. soil must be identified and brought to justice," the letter said. "Turkish personnel based in the U.S. who were involved in the attacks should be declared persona non grata and expelled from the U.S. immediately. Turkish personnel not based in the United States who were involved in the attacks should be barred from entry into the U.S. in the future. Foreign nationals who cannot respect the rule of law of this great country should not be allowed to enjoy the rights and privileges it affords."

The letter comes as the House Foreign Affairs Committee passed a resolution condemning the attacks and calling for prosecution of the Turkish personnel involved.