US House scolds Turkey over its bodyguards' DC violence


Washington (AFP)

US lawmakers, outraged over an attack on protesters in Washington by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's bodyguards, overwhelmingly approved a scathing measure Tuesday that calls for criminal charges against those responsible for the violence.

Democrats and Republicans came together and passed by unanimous voice vote a resolution condemning the "brutal" May 16 attack on peaceful demonstrators that left 11 people injured.

"Multiple armed Turkish security officials beat, kicked, and choked unarmed demonstrators" in Washington, the resolution stated, using extraordinarily sharp language against representatives of a NATO ally.

"Any Turkish security officials who directed, oversaw, or participated in efforts by Turkish security forces to illegally suppress peaceful protests... should be charged and prosecuted under United States law."

The incident, in which US officials and Washington police have blamed Erdogan's bodyguards for attacking a small group of pro-Kurdish protesters gathered outside the Turkish ambassador's residence, ignited a storm of controversy.

The US State Department called the violence "deeply disturbing." Several US lawmakers said it only highlighted the autocratic nature of Erdogan's rule and his dismissal of human rights and civil rights protections.

Turkey blamed the unrest on supporters of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) who picked on pro-Erdogan US-based Turks.

"The blame for this assault lies with the Turkish government alone," House Speaker Paul Ryan said in a statement.

"I urge Istanbul to finally accept responsibility for this egregious incident and apologize to those who were harmed."

The measure urges the State Department to request that Turkey waive the diplomatic immunity for those involved.

"The United States will not tolerate violence against peaceful protesters on our shores, and those responsible must face justice," number two House Democrat Steny Hoyer, one of the resolution's sponsors.

"The conduct must change. It is unacceptable."

Close-up footage shared on social media immediately after the clash showed Turkish officials dressed in suits beating and punching people in the crowd and, in at least one case, kicking out at a woman splayed on the ground.

Eleven people were injured, and two were arrested, according to DC police.

The incident was the third episode of violence by Turkish security personnel on US soil, lawmakers noted.

"Same head of state, same thugs attacking peaceful protesters," boomed Washington's representative in Congress, Eleanor Holmes Norton.

A similar measure condemning Turkey is working its way through the US Senate.