State Department, Secret Service, D.C. Police All Investigating Violent Attack by Turkish Personnel on Protesters

Turkish government 'summoned' U.S. ambassador to complain about situation

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

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The State Department, Secret Service, and D.C. Police are all investigating the attack by Turkish personnel against protesters which took place on American soil last week, a State Department official said on Monday.

During Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan's visit last Tuesday, a group of protesters advocating for the release of a Kurdish opposition party leader Erdogan jailed last year were brutally beaten by a group of men that included some of Erdogan's bodyguards. D.C. Police were eventually able to separate the Turkish personnel from the protesters but not before a number of protesters sustained injuries that required hospitalization. In the aftermath of the attack, police chief Peter Newsham said diplomatic immunity may be an issue in holding the Turkish personnel accountable but that his office would do everything in their power to do so.

Now, the State Department has confirmed that its Diplomatic Security Service, D.C. Police, and the Secret Service are all investigating the incident.

"The investigation is being conducted by the MPD, U.S. Secret Service, and Department of State's Diplomatic Security Service," a State Department official told the Washington Free Beacon. "All three law enforcement organizations are actively sharing information.‎ However, as we have indicated before, as this is an ongoing investigation we will not go into specifics."

The State Department continued to condemn the attack on Monday and said they had expressed their concerns with the Turkish government. "The conduct of Turkish security personnel last week was deeply disturbing," State Department spokesperson Heather Nauert said. "The State Department has raised its concerns about those events at the highest levels."

The Turkish government responded to the incident with anger. First, the Turkish embassy issued a statement blaming protesters for starting the violence despite video evidence contradicting that claim. Then the Turkish Foreign Ministry "summoned" the U.S. ambassador so they could deliver protests over how U.S. law enforcement officers treated Turkish personnel during the attack.

"The Ambassador of the Unites States of America (sic) in Ankara was summoned to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs today and a written and verbal protest was delivered due to the aggressive and unproffessional (sic) actions taken, contrary to diplomatic rules and practices, by US security personnel towards the close protection team of H.E Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu, Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Turkey, in front of the Turkish Embassy Chancery in Washington DC during the visit of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan last week," a statement posted to the Turkish embassy's website on Monday said. "It has been formally requested that the US authorities conduct a full investigation of this diplomatic incident and provide the necessary explanation."

The Turkish government went on to blame American officials for the attack but said they would not let that overshadow Erdogan's visit with President Trump.

"During the meeting with the Ambassador, it was emphasized that the lapses of security experienced during our President's stay in Washington, which were caused by the inability of US authorities to take sufficient precautions at every stage of the official program, will not overshadow what in every other aspect was a very successful and important visit."

The State Department confirmed that the ambassador was called to meet with Turkish officials and discuss the attack. "We can confirm the Turkish Foreign Ministry convoked our ambassador to Turkey to discuss the violent incidents involving protesters and Turkish security personnel on May 16," Nauert said.

The State Department would not disclose the details of the meeting and said it would not speculate on what actions might be taken against the Turkish personnel involved in the attack.

"We’re not going to detail the specifics of our diplomatic conversations," a State Department official said. "The case is currently under investigation, and we are not going to go into specifics or speculate on what may happen."

The Turkish government, which recently cracked down on independent media outlets in Turkey, did not respond to the Free Beacon‘s requests for comment.

Stephen Gutowski   Email Stephen | Full Bio | RSS
Stephen Gutowski is a staff writer for the Washington Free Beacon. He founded his own site as a junior in college and has been writing about news and politics since that time. He spent 4 years with the Media Research Center and was most recently with the Capitol City Project. His email address is Gutowski@FreeBeacon.com. His twitter handle is @StephenGutowski.

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